Childhood Tooth Grinding

Tooth grinding or bruxism has long thought to be an adult issue. However, approximately 30% of children develop bruxism during the early-school years. It usually decreased by the age 7 or 8 and may stop completely by age 12, or once all of the permanent teeth have erupted.

Why does my child grind their teeth?

No one knows exactly why bruxism happens in all cases. Some possible explanations may include misalignment of the teeth. Others do it as a response to pain, such as an earache, teething or tooth loss. Some children grind as a natural response to might grind their teeth as a way to ease the pain or discomfort just as they might rub or hold any other soreness. Most children outgrow these fairly common causes for grinding. Stress may also be a cause for tooth grinding. Although it is hard to imagine that your child is experiencing stress there may be many aspects of a child’s life that may cause nervous tension or anger. Worry over a test, a social situation at school, arguments with parents or siblings, or any change in their normal

Some kids who are hyperactive also experience bruxism. And sometimes kids with other medical conditions (such as cerebral palsy) or on certain medications can develop bruxism.

Side effects of Bruxism

Many cases of bruxism go undetected with no adverse effects, while others cause headaches or earaches. Usually, though, it’s more bothersome to other family members because of the grinding sound.

In some circumstances, nighttime grinding and clenching can wear down tooth enamel, chip teeth, increase temperature sensitivity, and cause severe facial pain and jaw problems, such as temporomandibular joint disease (TMJ). Most kids who grind, however, do not have TMJ problems unless their grinding and clenching is chronic.

Diagnosing Bruxism

Lots of kids who grind their teeth aren’t even aware of it, so it’s often siblings or parents who identify the problem.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Grinding noises when your child is sleeping
  • Complaints of a sore jaw or face in the morning
  • Pain with chewing

If you think your child is grinding his or her teeth, visit Lifetime Dental Care and our dentists will examine your child’s teeth for chipped enamel, unusual wear and tear, and check for cold sensitivity.

Treating Bruxism

Most kids outgrow bruxism, but a combination of parental observation and dental visits can help keep the problem in check until they do.

For advanced cases where there is jaw soreness, or tooth sensitivity a night guard may be recommended. The night guard is similar to mouthpieces worn by athletes and worn mostly at night. Night guards are usually recommended once all of the baby teeth have fallen out.

How Long Does Bruxism Last?

Bruxism in childhood is usually outgrown by adolescence. Most kids stop grinding when they lose their baby teeth. There are however, a few kids do continue to grind into adolescence. If the bruxism is caused by stress, the grinding may continue until the stress is relieved.

Preventing Bruxism

Most bruxism is a child’s natural reaction to growth and development, and therefore cannot be prevented. Stress-induced bruxism however can be avoided. Talk with your kids regularly about their feelings and helping them deal with stress. Children with severe emotional distress may need to seek help from a trained mental health professional. Take your child for routine dental visits to find and, if needed, treat bruxism.


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