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Are Dental Night Guards Best for Your Kids & Teens? What Dental Experts Are Saying

The effectiveness of a dental night guard depends on its design, fit, and consistent use. A reliable “dentist near me” diagnoses and treats dental and oral health issues and educates families about preventative measures like night guards.

As worries regarding kids’ and teens’ dental health rise, healthcare professionals and informed parents become more important.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dental night guards prevent teeth damage from bruxism or teeth grinding and jaw clenching.
  • These barriers prevent upper and lower teeth from touching, minimizing damage.
  • Under dental supervision, night guards are safe for kids and teens.

Understanding Dental Night Guards

Occlusal guards, known as bite splints, are custom-fitted soft or firm devices worn over the teeth at night. Dental night guards prevent upper and lower teeth from touching by providing a physical barrier. This reduces bruxism’s tooth wear, enamel erosion, and jaw pain. Dental night guards protect teeth and relieve bruxism symptoms.

How Dental Night Guards Prevent Bruxism or Teeth Grinding

  • Protect teeth and surrounding structures by dispersing and cushioning grinding and jaw-clenching pressures.
  • Reduce dental damage and premature tooth loss by providing a smooth, flat surface for teeth to glide against.
  • Relax jaw muscles and promote a more natural jaw position, relieving bruxism pain.
  • Dentists use night guards to detect bruxism and track tooth damage and bite alignment.

Prevalence of Bruxism in Children and Teens

Bruxism, or teeth grinding and jaw clenching, is becoming more common among children.

Studies have shown various prevalence rates for bruxism. However, it does impact a large percentage of children and teenagers. About 15% to 40% of children develop bruxism, according to research.

Bruxism rates peak between 6 and 10 years old and decline throughout adolescence. Some people have bruxism into their teens and adulthood.

Causes of Bruxism in Kids and Teens

  • While the specific reasons behind bruxism in young people are still unknown, researchers believe that it has multiple origins.
  • Stress, anxiety, hyperactivity, malocclusion, airway obstruction (such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids), and certain medical disorders or drugs may cause bruxism in younger people.
  • Teething in newborns and oral environment changes in childhood and adolescence may cause bruxism.

Potential Effects of Bruxism on Kids and Teens

  1. Teeth Wear. Bruxism can wear molars and incisors’ biting surfaces excessively. This can flatten or shorten teeth and require dental work to restore function and appearance.
  2. Tooth Sensitivity. As bruxism eats away tooth enamel, teeth may become more sensitive to heat, cold, and sweetness. This sensitivity can make eating or drinking painful.
  3. Enamel Erosion. Long-term grinding and clenching can erode tooth enamel. This can lead to cavities, tooth decay, and other dental issues.
  4. Dental fractures. Bruxism can cause tooth fractures by exerting excessive effort. Fractured teeth may need fillings, crowns, or extraction.
  5. TMJ & Jaw Pain. Bruxism strains the jaw and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) muscles, causing pain, stiffness, and dysfunction. This can cause mouth opening and closing difficulties, jaw clicking or popping, and limited jaw movement.
  6. Headaches and Facial Pain. Morning tension headaches and facial pain might result from chronic bruxism. Grinding and clenching can cause muscle fatigue and soreness in the jaw, cheek, and neck.
  7. Sleep Issues. Sleep disturbances from bruxism are common. Bruxism can cause frequent awakenings, trouble falling asleep, and disturbed sleep in children and teens.

Dental Night Guards for Kids: Expert Opinions

Dental professionals mostly agree that kids who grind their teeth or clench their jaws while they sleep need to wear night guards. When worn at night, a night guard can minimize bruxism-related wear and damage by acting as a barrier between the teeth.

Benefits of Night Guard Use

  • Tooth wear protection. Reduce tooth sensitivity, enamel degradation, and dental fractures caused by bruxism.
  • Jaw Pain Relief. Cushion the TMJ and surrounding muscles, relieving jaw pain and suffering from bruxism.
  • Maintaining Dental Health. Maintain oral health and reduce dental treatment by protecting teeth and supporting structures.
  • Quality Sleep Improvement. Improve sleep by minimizing bruxism-related disruptions such as teeth grinding.

Custom-Fit vs. Over-the-Counter Night Guards

Aspect Custom-Fit Night Guards Over-the-Counter Night Guards
Comfort Usually more comfortable due to exact fit and personalized design. May be uncomfortable and need trimming for a good fit.
Material High-quality materials selected by dentists for durability and comfort Generic materials, may be less durable or comfortable.
Effectiveness Best prevention against teeth grinding and jaw clenching May provide limited protection if improperly fitted.
Durability Generally more durable and long-lasting May wear out faster, requiring repair more often.
Cost Usually more expensive due to custom fabrication and dental fees Usually cheaper upfront, but replacements or adjustments may cost more.

Night Guard Use: Potential Concerns and Considerations

Dental Professional Concerns About Night Guard Use

  • Dental specialists advise against using night guards alone without addressing stress, malocclusion, or airway obstruction.
  • Young people may become dependent on night guards for symptom management rather than treating bruxism with behavioural changes, stress management, or orthodontics.

Night Guards for Children: Considerations for Parents

  • Dentist consultation. Parents should see a dentist to assess bruxism severity, determine the need for intervention, and discuss treatment options for their child before using night guards.
  • Customized Treatment. Oral specialists can work with parents to create a customized bruxism treatment plan that suits the child’s age, oral development, and health.
  • Monitoring and Follow-Up. Parents should regularly check their child’s response to night guard therapy and visit the dentist to make required changes and handle any problems or difficulties.
  • Education and Awareness. Parents must learn about bruxism, its causes, and treatment options and teach their children about oral health and good dental care.

When to Ask a Dentist About Night Guards

1.    Symptoms Persist

If your child still has bruxism symptoms like tooth wear, jaw pain, or headaches despite using a sleep guard, see their dentist for further evaluation and treatment changes.

2.    Night Guard Fit Issues

If your child has trouble wearing their night guard or you observe poor fit or alignment, consult their dentist to examine its fit and effectiveness.

3.    Changes in Dental Health

If you see your child’s teeth wearing down, discomfort, or restorative damage, see their dentist immediately to diagnose and adjust therapy.

4.    Query or Concern

Consult your child’s dentist for questions about night guard use or oral health. Dental specialists can help you achieve your child’s optimal oral health.

Ensure Optimal Oral Health in Children and Teens

Parents must prioritize dental health and preventive care early on. Children and teens have better oral health when they practice proper oral hygiene, monitor it, and address issues quickly.

Under dental supervision, night guards protect teeth health and prevent future difficulties.

When it comes to preserving good dental health throughout one’s life, dentists serve as essential allies. Westgate Dental Centre provides children with the greatest dental care through frequent checkups, professional advice, and tailored treatment plans.

Frequently Asked Questions

At what age can kids use dental night guards?

Depending on their needs and the dentist’s suggestion, children and teens of various ages can use night guards. Bruxism-afflicted children may start utilizing night guards around six or seven.

How should parents monitor their kids’ dental health?

  • Regular dental exams. Your youngster should have twice-yearly dental checkups or as indicated by their dentist. Regular exams discover dental concerns early and promote oral health.
  • Promote Oral Hygiene. Encourage your child to brush and floss twice a day using fluoride toothpaste. Monitor brushing until they can do it alone.
  • Bruxism Signs. Bruxism symptoms include teeth grinding noises during sleep, jaw pain or headaches upon waking, and irregular tooth wear. If you see these signs, contact your child’s dentist.
  • Monitor Night Guard Usage. Your youngster should always wear their dentist-prescribed night guard. Check the night guard for wear and replace it as needed to keep it working.
  • Promote Healthy Habits. Relaxation techniques and fun hobbies can help your youngster with bruxism. Healthy eating and exercise promote a healthy lifestyle.

What is the recommended nightly wear time for dental night guards for children?

The recommended nightly wear time for dental night guards for children is typically 8 to 10 hours per night. However, this will also depend on the bruxism severity and the child’s needs.

References:

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/10910-mouthguards

https://www.hvkidsmiles.com/blog/when-are-mouth-guards-for-children-needed/

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/bruxism.html

https://www.healthline.com/health/mouth-guard

https://kidsdentalgroup.ca/2023/11/13/how-to-pick-the-right-mouthguard-for-your-child/

https://foxkidsdentistry.com/blog/stop-child-grinding-teeth/

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bruxism/teeth-grinding-children

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