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Healthy Teeth

Teeth grinding in children, plus teeth whitening for a bright smile and the top 10 staining foods

(page 1 of 2)

It’s National Children’s Dental Health Month. Here’s what parents should know about two common dental concerns: teeth grinding and teeth whitening. By Malia Jacobson

Teeth grinding in children

Many parents will hear their children’s teeth grinding at some point. A Journal of Dentistry for Children study found that more than a third of parents have reported the condition in their kids. “It can get pretty loud,” admits Paul Bussman, DMD, FAGD, former spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry.

Though teeth grinding, or bruxism, may be alarming or worrisome, “It’s generally a normal part of the growing process” and typically disappears on its own. Severe or persistent grinders may suffer facial pain, earaches, jaw joint disorders, damaged teeth and disturbed sleep. If your child’s teeth have become nighttime noisemakers, here are some tips for coping.

Do not disturb. “Don’t wake kids engaged in nighttime teeth grinding,” says Dr. Bussman. “They’re not aware of it, so bringing it to their attention will probably confuse them.”

Stress less. Grinding can be associated with daytime stress, so help kids relax. Ask them to talk about any stressful events they may have experienced that day, and encourage them to unwind before bedtime with a bath, books and quiet activities.

Back off. Bruxism occurs more commonly during back sleeping. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends back sleeping for infants, but older children who grind may be more comfortable sleeping in another position.

Get a move on. Encourage kids to get adequate exercise. Physical activity eases stress, helps kids fall asleep faster and promotes deep, restful sleep.

Turn-down service. As difficult as it may be, try not to become overly concerned with the occasional episode of bruxism. Turn down the volume on monitoring devices so they aren’t tuned in to every little sound.

If grinding regularly interferes with sleep or if a child complains of pain in his teeth or face, see a dentist. In severe cases, a dentist may prescribe a soft-plastic night guard to protect the teeth and the jaw joint. Occasionally, grinding is associated with a misaligned bite. If that’s the case, a pediatric dentist will refer your child to an orthodontist.

Next page: how to whiten kids' teeth for a bright smile safely

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