May 28, 2012

A cure for teeth grinding?

Number One has been grinding his teeth at night, since, well, he has had teeth. The grinding is pretty severe and his baby teeth have been worn down and the remaining front ones are only a fraction of their original size. The adult teeth are stronger, but there are white patches on them because there was trauma while they were emerging.

The dentists we saw earlier said there is no cure, and a mouth guard was only the way to protect the teeth, but they could not be made until all the adult teeth had come in. A mouth guard isn't ideal too - who wants to sleep with a device in their mouth? On one paeditrician's advice, we tried restricting their console game time, and instituting a cool down period before sleep. Didn't work. We tried nasal (steroid) sprays with limited results. Some kids do outgrow grinding, I read, as the adult teeth are harder, but the grinding continued through the years. Number One also breathes nosily at night, as if he has a cold.

By chance, I met a mother whose child also has breathing problems at night, and grinds his teeth. He is now being treated with a rapid maxillary expansion, where the jaw is literally made wider. This can only be done before the age of 12, when the maxilla seals. This creates space for the teeth and does something to the airways. It also allows room for the teeth and use of braces without having to resort to pulling healthy teeth.

I sought out the child's doctor, an orthodontist who also has a sleep degree, and he told us that teeth and jaws are connected with proper breathing during sleep and bedwetting/excessive urine at night. Wow! By chance also, one guy we just befriended does sleep studies, and he confirmed all this.

The doctor told us some interesting facts, some of which I will repeat here: (but please take it with a pinch of salt in case I get it wrong!)

1) Narrow jaw with no room for all the teeth? The method of teeth extraction combined with braces is not ideal, because the tongue is caged in a smaller mouth and this affects breathing.

2) Physical activity is not only good for the heart and brain, it's also good for the teeth! Bad posture creates bad teeth. (It's all about how the tongue sits in the mouth. Try sitting upright and see where your tongue sits, then stick your head and neck forward)

3) Human tissue is very strong, and he recounted kids who had braces that could not help in perfectly aligning their teeth because their posture was bad.

4) Where and how the tongue sits, actually shapes the jaw and teeth. (The cheek muscles pull them in, while the tongue pushes them out, and it somehow works at an equillibrium). Other factors are environment and genetics.

5) Normally, the body produces an antidiuretic hormorne (ADH) that slows the making of urine while you sleep. Without proper, deep, sleep, this hormone is not released and more urine is produced.

6) Teeth grinding and crowding may be due to blocked airways during sleep. It's all instinctual to grind when your teeth are crowded and misaligned. There are other reasons for grinding of course, stress being one of them.

7) Because we are eating Coco Pops (the doctor's example!), we don't have as many teeth as we used to. He says aboriginal children who live in a more rural setting and consume less processed food, can two more molars than city kids!

This doctor does sleep studies too, so we will be embarking on one for Number One. His adenoids and tonsils will be examined too - (steriod) nasal sprays help to open up the airways, and for some people, the adenoids and tonsils are removed.

I'm somewhat amazed that we stumbled on this, and I'll report back on the results.

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