Under normal circumstances, your teeth should only contact for about 5 minutes each day. Normal chewing results in brief intervals of contact between enamel surfaces, the hardest substance in the human body.
Sometimes teeth develop a flattened, worn appearance, even in young patients. And x-rays may demonstrate unusually thin layers of enamel as if sandpaper has been drawn across the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
You Don’t Even Know
Some patients, regardless of age, develop a subconscious habit of grinding their teeth, either during the day or night. Even experts aren’t completely sure why babies and children grind, or brux, their teeth. It may be that the back and forth motion soothes gums that are aching from teething or perhaps the sensation of teeth is so new that a baby will grind them just to get a feel for them.
In many cases, the abrasive action occurs only during sleep, and for only a few seconds at a time. In some children, they can complain of headaches upon waking or a sore jaw that makes chewing tough food difficult.
The unusual activity not only wears down teeth, but strains overworked muscles. The compressive forces can also damage the intricate jaw joints on one or both sides. Damage to the joints may lead to arthritic changes, chronic pain, and popping or clicking. Once these changes settle in, reversing their condition may become impossible.
Avoiding Irreversible Damage
If your child wakes up complaining about a sore jaw or headaches a consult with Dr. Chang or Dr. Phan should be on your list. The sooner the problem receives attention, the less damage there will be. Often a carefully calibrated night guard with a distinct bite relationship built in will eliminate your child’s symptoms while protecting their precious enamel.