Written by: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center
Reviewed by: Kelsey Sorvick, RN, Penfield Children’s Center
Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a common condition in young children. When teeth grinding and clenching happen at night, it often occurs during phases of deep sleep or when the child is under stress. Rest assured though, 2 to 3 out of every 10 children grind their teeth, and most overcome it as they get older. While it isn’t exactly clear what causes bruxism, here are a few factors that are likely to contribute:
- Is your child teething or experiencing an earache or other dull pain? Kids sometimes grind their teeth in order to relieve pain.
- Teeth alignment: At times, kids will grind their teeth as a result of the bottom and top teeth not being aligned properly.
- Stress: Anxiety is another reason kids grind their teeth at night.
- Hyperactivity: Some children with hyperactivity disorders, such as ADHD, or those with other medical conditions can suffer from bruxism.
Should I be worried if my child is grinding his teeth?
Oftentimes, parents don’t even know their child has bruxism because they might be sleeping in another room and not hear the grinding or they don’t notice any effects on the teeth. As stated earlier, most kids outgrow bruxism, so it isn’t cause for much concern. However, if you start seeing that the enamel on your child’s teeth is wearing away, if they have chipped teeth, experience pain when chewing or have sensitivities to hot or cold foods, it is a good idea to talk to your child’s dentist. Also, while uncommon, children can develop temporomandibular joint disease (TMJ) from too much clenching or grinding. Signs and symptoms of TMJ can include jaw pain, difficulty chewing and a clicking sound when opening the mouth.
A trip to the dentist for bruxism will often include temperature tests on the teeth and an examination of the tooth’s enamel. The dentist might also ask questions about your child’s stress levels to help figure out if the grinding is caused by something psychological.
If your child is experiencing pain from bruxism, the dentist might prescribe a mouth guard that can be worn at night to minimize the impact of teeth grinding and help prevent future damage. If the dentist thinks that the bruxism is related to stress, he/she might suggest a calming routine before bed, such as taking a warm bath, deep breathing exercises or storytime.
While the screeching and scraping sounds of bruxism can be quite unsettling to hear, rest assured your little one will likely outgrow it once his adult teeth come in. It’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on your child’s teeth though and if you feel like your child might benefit from an extra trip to the dentist, he/she will likely have some tried and true advice to help. It’s also important to talk to children about feelings and if you do suspect something is causing stress, ask open-ended questions and always let him/her know that you are available to listen as this can help alleviate stress-induced bruxism.
Does your child grind his/her teeth? If so, what steps have you taken to help ease bruxism?