The child grinds his teeth in his sleep: causes and treatment24.05.2022
Sometimes parents notice that the child has begun to grind his teeth during sleep. This symptom is not always associated with any pathology in the baby’s body.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism is the occurrence of teeth grinding during the day and at night. Normally, in a child’s sleep, the muscles of the face and chewing apparatus are completely relaxed or in a slight tone. With bruxism, for a number of reasons, clonic contractions of the masticatory muscles periodically occur, the lower jaw begins to move intensively relative to the upper jaw in various directions. With this movement, the dentition is in contact with each other, causing gnashing.
Teeth grinding in childhood is very common – about half of children suffer from this pathology from the moment the first teeth erupt to six or seven years.
The disease is most common in girls. Rarely, bruxism persists or appears for the first time in adulthood. The prevalence of the disease among the adult population is less than 10%.
Symptoms of pathology
Bruxism most often occurs during REM sleep. The baby’s eyes begin to move under closed eyelids, breathing and pulse quicken, involuntary sounds appear, and the child grinds his teeth in his sleep. An episode of bruxism usually lasts no more than 10 seconds, but there may be several such episodes during the night. The child does not wake up during and after grinding his teeth.
Causes of rattle
There are several main theories that explain why a child grinds his teeth in his sleep:
- Psychological theory. According to this theory, bruxism occurs in emotional and highly sensitive children. Excitement, new impressions, emotional overstrain do not find a way out in the daytime. As a result, illness becomes a reflection of accumulated emotions. At the same time, gnashing of teeth is not necessarily associated with bad emotions and experiences. Positive impressions can also lead to clonic convulsions of the masticatory muscles.
- neurogenic theory. In some cases, diseases of the central and peripheral nervous systems become the cause of nightly grinding of teeth. With damage to the nuclei of neurons in the brain, convulsions of the chewing muscles can develop. Bruxism can be the first symptom of epilepsy. With lesions of the peripheral nervous system, neuritis of the facial nerves, grinding of teeth occurs due to a violation of the conduction of a nerve impulse along the nerve fibers.
- anatomical theory. Bruxism can be an attempt to compensate for certain birth injuries, congenital or acquired disorders of the structure of the temporomandibular joint, and improper formation of the dentition. In these cases, the occurrence of night grinding helps to relieve tension in the muscular apparatus.
- dental theory. Anomalies of the teeth and malocclusion lead to incorrect installation of the lower jaw relative to the upper. During sleep, the temporomandibular joint is set in a physiologically correct position, but due to anomalies in the development of the teeth, it cannot stay in this state. Bruxism occurs.
Additional factors in the development of bruxism have not been scientifically confirmed. They serve only as an addition to the main theories that explain why children grind their teeth:
- Adenoids. In childhood, proliferation of the tissue of the pharyngeal tonsil may occur. Adenoids disrupt nasal breathing, cause dryness of the oral mucosa. Grinding of teeth in this case is a protective reaction of the body, it helps to moisturize the mucosa.
- Helminthiases. Helminths (worms) in the child’s body intensively consume B vitamins, causing their deficiency. As a result, there is a violation of the neuromuscular transmission of the nerve impulse.
- Teething. When painful sensations occur during teething, the child unconsciously tries to reduce their severity. Rubbing gums (with teething teeth) against each other causes bruxism.
- Weaning. With early weaning, when the baby’s sucking reflex is still too strong, teeth grinding may occur at night. According to the latest recommendations of the World Health Organization, breastfeeding should be maintained up to two years of a child’s life.
Teeth grinding during the day
If a child grinds his teeth only during the day, this is due to the emergence of a bad habit. In this way, the baby can copy the behavior of the parents or attract the attention of the mother. At the same time, if you distract the child for the game, the rattle stops.
Diagnosis of bruxism
Diagnosis of bruxism consists mainly of asking parents. The doctor will find out when the baby began to grind his teeth, possible causes, a combination with other symptoms.
In the presence of bruxism, parents should consult a pediatrician. He conducts a general examination of the child, collects an anamnesis from the parents, clarifies the presence of concomitant symptoms – sleepwalking, enuresis (bedwetting). Of great importance is the study of the history of childbirth (the presence of complications in them). After a thorough examination, the doctor prescribes to the child a fecal analysis for worm eggs and expert advice:
- Dentist. The doctor examines the oral cavity, determines if there are anomalies in the dentition, bite, and structure of the teeth. The dentist can determine the approximate duration of bruxism by the wear of tooth enamel. In order to determine the fact of the presence of bruxism, he can install a special mouthguard for the child to sleep at night. This cap is a cast of the patient’s teeth taken during the day. At night, the child wears this cap. In the morning, the cap is sent to the dentist for analysis. After examining the cap, he can determine which teeth bear the main load, and in some cases, name the cause of the grinding.
- Neurologist. The doctor checks the child’s reflexes, determines the degree of his excitability, looks at the reaction to stimuli.
- Psychologist. The consultation is prescribed for highly sensitive children, children from families with an unfavorable emotional background, in the presence of traumatic factors in the child’s life.
After studying all the factors and determining the cause of bruxism, treatment is prescribed.
Treatment for grinding
If the episode of teeth grinding has recurred in a child only a few times, then treatment is not required. In this case, parents should simply observe the child and possible changes in his behavior. If bruxism recurs systematically, this is an occasion to consult a doctor who will tell parents what to do.
To prevent teeth grinding, parents need to build the correct daily routine for the child. The duration of daytime and nighttime sleep should be age appropriate. During the day, periods of activity should be combined with periods of quiet play. Two hours before a night’s sleep, you need to exclude active games, watching TV. At this time, you can take your child reading books, picking up puzzles, drawing. For 40-60 minutes in the room, it is advisable to dim the lights and start getting ready for bed.
During the day, if possible, the child should spend more time outdoors. Thus, optimal enrichment of the brain with oxygen, restoration of nerve fibers of the peripheral nervous system is achieved.
Before going to bed, the use of tea, chocolate and cocoa-containing sweets is excluded. The last meal is preferably an hour before bedtime.
The child needs more attention. This is especially true of transitional stages in the life of a baby, such as the appearance of a second child in the family, moving to another city, the beginning of a visit to a preschool institution, the death of a relative or pet. If bruxism occurs during a crisis (crisis of the first year of life, three or seven years), the child also needs more attention from relatives.
Specific treatment for bruxism in children is prescribed if it is caused by helminthic invasion, neuritis, pathology of the dentition and malocclusion.
With helminths, antihelminthic therapy is prescribed. In this case, all family members and pets must undergo treatment.
With neuritis, a neurologist can prescribe B vitamins, soothing teas and herbal preparations, massage and physiotherapy to the temporomandibular joint area.
If the grinding is caused by the pathology of the teeth, the child is prescribed to wear a special silicone cap at night. In case of malocclusion, plates or braces are prescribed.
Bruxism is only treated if the grinding is caused by a specific condition. But most often, bruxism appears when the psycho-emotional state of the child is disturbed. In this case, to stop the gnashing of teeth, the child needs psychological support from the parents.