Facial Changes in Children with Sleep Bruxism


Bruxism is the involuntary clenching of the jaw and grinding of teeth. It occurs in both adults, teenagers, and children. For children, the condition sets in once they start developing primary teeth.

It can be classified as a diurnal (during the day) or nocturnal (at night) activity. During the day, bruxism occurs unconsciously. When you are aware of your child’s condition, you may help your child to stop or even modify it.

However, if it is nocturnal bruxism, the child may not be able to stop it consciously. It may even go undetected unless you happen to be woken up by the loud and harsh sound, grinding, or gnashing the teeth.

The Effects of Bruxism

Gnashing and grinding of teeth may affect growth and development of a child. Some of the effects include:

1. Development of a short lower face height also known as Brachycephaly

Active grinding of teeth results in excessive compression of the facial muscles. At the infancy stage, the sutures of the skull of a child are not closed. It is, therefore, possible to rearrange it. The pressure applied to the developing skull of the child may create an effect of a head that has been crushed vertically.
Having a short lower face height does not necessarily indicate bruxism as to some; it is a facial form that is genetic. The short lowered face appearance then progresses into adolescence.

2. Wearing down the teeth enamel

The enamel of primary teeth is thinner than that or permanent teeth. They are therefore more susceptible to wear. Due to the excessive compression by sleep bruxism, over a long time, it may wear down the enamel of the teeth.
It adds to the development of a short lower face, as the permanent molars will only grow to the height of the primary molars.

3. Compression of the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)

Gnashing and grinding of teeth involve the temporalis and masseter muscles. It results in the compression of the TMJ, which may lead to:
• An earache that a doctor may not be able to detect its cause as there is no infection
• The disk in the TMJ becomes destabilized. If the grinding and clenching happens a lot, the child may develop Temporomandibular Disorder

4. Other effects of bruxism are:

• Increased sensitivity to temperature
• Headaches
• Trouble sleeping
• Fracturing of teeth
• Jaw Pain
• Facial Pain

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