What to Do About Children Who Grind Their Teeth
You may associate teeth grinding with life’s daily grind. After all, many adults
clench or grind their teeth due to stress. However, nighttime gnashing seems to
be most common in kids.
According to BMJ Group, 20 percent of the adult population
report awake bruxism—commonly known as teeth grinding—and sleeping bruxism is self-reported
as follows: • 14 to 18 percent in children • 8 to 10 percent in adults • 3 percent
in older people
Other sources reflect this finding. Children do, in fact, have the highest prevalence
of bruxism, according to the American Academy of Oral Medicine. The number has been reported
to be as high as 38 percent, according to a 2005 study in the Journal of Dentistry
for Children cited by babycenter.com.
Finding the problem
When you check in on your child at night, listen for gnashing and grinding. Other
signs may include complaints of headaches or earaches. Pay attention to any discomfort
your child mentions and look for patterns. This will be helpful when talking to
the doctor or dentist.
Looking at the cause and effect
Potential causes of childhood teeth grinding, according to the ADA, include: • Stress
• Irritation in the mouth • Allergies • Misaligned teeth
In addition to headaches and earaches, KidsHealth.org lists the following nighttime grinding effects
in children: • Worn tooth enamel • Chipped teeth • Increased temperature sensitivity
• Severe facial pain and jaw problems, including temporomandibular joint disorder
with chronic grinding
Bringing grinding to a halt
Here are three things you can do to address childhood teeth grinding:
- Talk to your child’s dentist
As stated above, treatment may not be necessary. However, in certain cases and with
older children, he or she may recommend a nighttime mouth guard for protection.
- Encourage relaxation.
KidsHealth.com suggests reading stories, listening to music, and/or taking a warm
bath or shower before bedtime. You might also sit with your child and practice relaxing
breathing techniques. Refer to Livestrong.com’s “Deep Breathing Exercises for Kids” for ideas. Inner Health Studio provides a useful relaxation script
aimed at children.
- Discuss it with the pediatrician.
He or she can help you rule out more serious causes and help determine a course
of action. Your child may be experiencing significant stress or anxiety that could
benefit from therapy or other treatment.
American Dental Association says that because kids experience change and
growth quickly, it is usually not a damaging habit requiring treatment. Most outgrow
the habit by adolescence.
However, as stated above, teeth grinding can signal other problems that should be
addressed promptly. Make sure you schedule your child’s recommended twice-yearly
dental checkups and annual visit to the pediatrician.