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What to Do If Your Child Grinds Their Teeth

Black and white photo of a sleeping boy suffering from bruxism, chronic teeth grinding

Have you ever heard your child grinding their teeth at night? Here, we’ll explain what “bruxism” is, its warning signs, and its potential causes. We also suggest what to do if you think your child is suffering from bruxism.

What Is Bruxism?

What we commonly refer to as “teeth grinding” is officially known as “bruxism”, the condition that involves chronic grinding and clenching of teeth, typically while asleep. Many children struggle with bruxism, with about 2 to 3 out of every 10 children grinding their teeth at night. Though most outgrow bruxism, some may need treatment to help protect their teeth from damage while asleep.

What Are the Warning Signs of Teeth Grinding?

Children with bruxism often suffer from:

  • Facial and neck pain
  • Jaw problems
  • Headaches and irritability
  • Earaches
  • Thinned enamel, with subsequent tooth sensitivity and an increased number of cavities
  • Broken or chipped teeth

What Causes Teeth Grinding?

There are a number of different reasons why your child may have bruxism. A common cause is overwhelming stress and anxiety. Children may also grind their teeth if they have cerebral palsy, are in pain, are incredibly high-energy, or are experiencing an adverse reaction to a medication. A misaligned bite or jaw may also contribute to bruxism.

How to Know If Your Child Has Bruxism

If your child is grinding their teeth at night, they probably don’t even realize they are doing it. A good way to tell is by regularly checking in on them at night. Listen for any grinding noises and watch your child’s temples for muscle contractions. In the morning, if your child regularly experiences jaw pain or headaches, these could be related to nighttime teeth grinding.

Additionally, consider whether it’s a particularly stressful time for your child. For example, do they feel rejected by their peer group? Are they being bullied, in person or online? Has there been a lot of contention at home? Did your family recently move or lose a loved one? Is your child over-scheduled with too many activities? Do they have enough downtime for unstructured imaginative play? Are they spending too much time on screens? Be sure to regularly have sincere conversations with your child about their current emotional state.

If My Child Grinds Their Teeth at Night, What Should I Do?

The next step is to set up an appointment with our expert team here at Tots to Teens Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics. We can work together to determine the best course of action for your child! Sometimes teeth grinding is a temporary coping mechanism and children grow out of it; other times we may suggest a custom mouthguard that your child can wear at night. This will not only prevent damage to your child’s teeth, but it will reduce the occurrence of headaches and jaw pain by helping their chewing muscles to relax.

So if you think your child grinds their teeth at night, contact us to schedule an appointment!

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