Teeth Grinding in Kids : Causes, Effects, Signs and Treatment
Do you wonder why your child grinds their teeth in the night? The sound can be very eerie.
When your kid is sleeping, being a parent, you want to hear the sound of easy breathing and sweet dreams. Sometimes parents hear the harsh sound of grinding of the teeth. This is called bruxism in children.
This dental problem of bruxism can be common in kids. It is a medical term that involves clenching of jaws and grinding of teeth. According to experts, almost 2 to 3 kids out of 10 will clench or grind their teeth.
If your child grinds their teeth at night, read on to see the causes, signs and treatment options for teeth grinding in kids.
Causes of Teeth Grinding in Kids
Experts are still not sure about all of the causes of teeth grinding in children. There can be lots of reasons for a child grinding their teeth.
- In some kids, the reason behind grinding can be the improper alignment between the top and bottom teeth
- Some kids grind their teeth in response to pain or teething
- To get relief from pain, kids tend to grind their teeth like they rub a sore muscle to get relief
- Stress can be a significant cause of grinding because a kid may be worried about the school test or paper
- Airway obstruction, difficulty breathing, allergies or sleep disorders can cause teeth grinding in children
- Some kids might develop bruxism because of the medical condition known as cerebral palsy
Effects of Teeth Grinding in Kids
In most of the cases, there will be no ill effects due to teeth grinding in kids. While in some kids, teeth grinding can result in earaches and headaches. The sound of grinding can also be uneasy to hear for family members.
In some cases grinding during sleep can result in wearing down the tooth enamel which can lead to increased teeth sensitivity, and chipped teeth.
This grinding and clenching can lead to severe jaw and facial problems. In medical terms, it is known as Temporomandibular Joint Disease (TMJ).
If the kids are not grinding their teeth too much, they may not develop TMJ.
Why teeth grinding can be harmful
The regular and frequent teeth grinding can result in loosening, fracturing, or sometimes loss of teeth. Chronic teeth grinding can be severe and may wear your teeth down flat.
In the case of severe damage from teeth grinding, crowns, implants, bridges, or root canal treatment may be needed. Teeth grinding does not only result in teeth loss; it can also cause severe damage to jaws known as TMJ. The worst thing is, it can change the appearance of your face. These instances are in the most severe cases of teeth grinding.
How to diagnose teeth grinding in kids
Most of the kids facing the issue of teeth grinding are not even aware of it. It is the primary responsibility of the parents to identify the problem.
How can parents identify bruxism in children? Some signs of bruxism in children to be noticed are:
- Grinding noises during sleep
- Child waking up with headaches
- Sore face or jaw when your kids wake up in the morning
- Feeling pain during chewing
- Chipped teeth or flattening of the tops of the back teeth
Take your child to the dentist if you notice any of the above. The dentist may ask your child questions. These questions will allow the doctor to diagnose the problem of whether grinding is because of improper alignment of teeth, an airway issue or because of stress. After identifying the issue, the doctor can suggest or perform the treatment.
Treatments for teeth grinding
Teeth grinding can result in pain and teeth problems. It is sometimes treated with a night-guard. Night-guards are pieces of plastic or acrylic that can be flexible or hard. They easily slip over the teeth and can protect your teeth from damage.
Many times, night guards will not work on children because they will not keep them in. They also have teeth coming in and out so a night guard will not fit properly very long. It is better to get to the source of the problem than try to use a night guard as a band-aid.
Some parents attempt to wake their child during grinding. We don’t recommend doing this because it can worsen the symptoms. It can affect the ability of your child to get good sleep.
If the reason behind teeth grinding is stress, then try to establish a routine with your kid to minimize the anxiety and stress. Before bedtime, interact with your child. Keep your children away from TV programs and games that are not suited for their age. Never allow your child to eat food and drinks that contain caffeine as that can cause the problem to worsen by causing restlessness. Make sure that your child is getting enough sleep, and is sleeping well.
If the problem is an airway issue or sleep disorder, your dentist refer your child to an ENT or sleep specialist to figure out the issue and fix the problem.
If your child is grinding their teeth due to misalignment, your child will probably need to see an orthodontist to straighten out the teeth.
If your child is grinding their teeth as a response to baby teeth being loose, usually no treatment is needed.
How to prevent teeth grinding?
During the growth of kids, teeth grinding can be a natural reaction, but in some cases, bruxism can be prevented. So follow the below-given tips to avoid or stop teeth grinding in kids.
• Before going to bed, try to calm down your child and minimize their stress.
• To relax muscles, try stretching exercises, and massage.
• Ensure that your child’s diet contains plenty of water because dehydration can be the reason for teeth grinding. Minimize caffeine.
For preschool-age children, no intervention is typically required. However, for older kids, some methods are needed for the prevention of teeth grinding, such as a night-guard.
How long does the problem of teeth grinding in children last?
Most of the kids stop teeth grinding when they lose their baby teeth. However, some kids may continue even with their permanent teeth as well. If the teeth grinding is because of stress, try to ease the stress and bruxism will go away. If the problem is a breathing issue or teeth misalignment then treatment for those conditions should stop the teeth grinding.
Teeth grinding in kids is very common and may not be cause for concern or treatment at all. There are some cases that intervention needs to be done so if you suspect your child is grinding their teeth, have a talk with your child’s dentist. They will know the best course of action to take if any.
Kelly Hancock, RDH
Kelly is a registered dental hygienist and oral health care provider. She is passionate about oral hygiene and encourages people to achieve optimal oral health. She has been working in the dental profession for 16 years and worked in many different roles in the dental industry. Kelly is currently a pediatric dental hygienist specializing in children’s dentistry. She is committed to helping others with their oral health care issues and helping others achieve a smile they love.