Teeth grinding is one childhood habit that sounds worse than it usually is: often the most harm done is to your night’s sleep. That said, though, it’s still a habit to keep your eye on.
Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding is so common among children that it’s considered normal behavior by many healthcare professionals. As for causes, some suggest a child’s immature neuromuscular chewing control may trigger it, while others point to the change from deeper sleep to a lighter stage as a possible cause. Problems like airway obstruction, medications or stress also seem to contribute to the habit.
For most children, teeth grinding usually fades by age 11 with no adverse effect on their teeth. If the habit extends into adolescence, however, there’s an increased risk for damage, mainly tooth wear.
This can happen because grinding often produces chewing forces 20-30 times greater than normal. Over time this can cause the biting surfaces of the teeth to wear and reduces the size of the teeth. While teeth normally wear over a lifetime, accelerated wear can pose a significant health risk to your teeth. Any sign of tooth wear in a child or adolescent is definitely cause for concern.
If your child’s tooth grinding habit appears to be developing into a problem, your dentist may recommend a few treatment options. The most common is a thin, plastic night guard worn in the mouth during sleep that prevents the upper and lower teeth from making contact. If the suspected cause is airway obstruction, they may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist to seek treatment for that, as well as other professionals to help with managing stress or medications.
Like thumb sucking, the habit of teeth grinding usually ends with no permanent ill effects. But if you notice it continuing late into childhood or your dentist finds tooth wear or other problems, take action to avoid problems long-term.
If you would like more information on childhood bruxism, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “When Children Grind their Teeth.”
If we could go back in time, we all probably have a few things we wish we could change. Recently, Dr. Travis Stork, emergency room physician and host of the syndicated TV show The Doctors, shared one of his do-over dreams with Dear Doctor magazine: “If I [could have] gone back and told myself as a teenager what to do, I would have worn a mouthguard, not only to protect my teeth but also to help potentially reduce risk of concussion.”
What prompted this wish? The fact that as a teenage basketball player, Stork received an elbow to the mouth that caused his two front teeth to be knocked out of place. The teeth were put back in position, but they soon became darker and began to hurt. Eventually, both were successfully restored with dental crowns. Still, it was a painful (and costly) injury — and one that could have been avoided.
You might not realize it, but when it comes to dental injuries, basketball ranks among the riskier sports. Yet it’s far from the only one. In fact, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), there are some two dozen others — including baseball, hockey, surfing and bicycling — that carry a heightened risk of dental injury. Whenever you’re playing those sports, the ADA recommends you wear a high-quality mouth guard.
Mouthguards have come a long way since they were introduced as protective equipment for boxers in the early 1900’s. Today, three different types are widely available: stock “off-the-shelf” types that come in just a few sizes; mouth-formed “boil-and-bite” types that you adapt to the general contours of your mouth; and custom-made high-quality mouthguards that are made just for you at the dental office.
Of all three types, the dentist-made mouthguards are consistently found to be the most comfortable and best-fitting, and the ones that offer your teeth the greatest protection. What’s more, recent studies suggest that custom-fabricated mouthguards can provide an additional defense against concussion — in fact, they are twice as effective as the other types. That’s why you’ll see more and more professional athletes (and plenty of amateurs as well) sporting custom-made mouthguards at games and practices.
“I would have saved myself a lot of dental heartache if I had worn a mouthguard,” noted Dr. Stork. So take his advice: Wear a mouthguard whenever you play sports — unless you’d like to meet him (or one of his medical colleagues) in a professional capacity…
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection of the gums. There are many indications that the gums are infected, such as tenderness or bleeding when brushing. These signs of gum disease should not be ignored. As the infection spreads, the gums become weak and lose their ability to support the teeth, which can lead to loose teeth. A dentist can treat the gum disease and prevent the infection from spreading. Dr. Garrett Oka at Sweet Tooth Dental provides treatment of gum disease in Kailua Kona, HI.
Signs of Gum Disease
Gum disease is characterized by several warning signs. If you have any of the signs of gum disease, it is important that you see a dentist who can stop the bacterial infection from spreading. Common signs that your gums are infected include:
Causes of Gum Disease
Bacteria from plaque on the teeth can cause gum disease. Brushing and flossing daily are both important for removing the plaque and bacteria that can lead to gum disease. If the teeth aren’t cleaned regularly, tartar can build up and also cause gum disease. Unfortunately, tartar can’t be removed by simply brushing or flossing. A visit to the dentist for a professional teeth cleaning is the only way to really remove tartar. In general, keeping the teeth clean so that bacteria cannot accumulate is the best way to prevent gum disease.
There are a few conditions that can leave some individuals more vulnerable to gum disease. Some people seem to be genetically predisposed to developing gum disease and might just have more sensitive gums. Individuals with diabetes or who take certain types of medications are also at greater risk of developing gum disease. Smoking increases risk, as well. Finally, women experiencing hormonal changes are often at increased risk for gum disease as their gums are more sensitive due to the change in hormone levels.
Gums that are swollen, red or tender or that bleed when brushing the teeth are likely infected. Be sure you don’t ignore these signs of gum disease. Visit a dentist to treat the infection and stop it from spreading. For treatment of gum disease in Kailua Kona, HI, call the dental practice of Dr. Garrett Oka at (808) 329-0889.