Teeth grinding, also referred to as bruxism, is a common habit among children. It tends to occur when baby teeth begin to develop and emerge and permanent teeth come in. Many children outgrow bruxism without treatment. However, teeth grinding could be a sign of a more serious problem and shouldn’t be ignored.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
The causes of teeth grinding are not known but experts believe that:
- Stress, anxiety, feelings of anger or frustration, sleep disorders and an abnormal bite all play a role.
- In younger children, teeth grinding may be caused by pain from teething. It can sometimes mean that the child is having pain from an ear infection.
- It could also occur as a result of airway issues and parasites. When teeth grinding is caused by parasites, it can get worse with time.
Signs and Symptoms of Teeth Grinding
- Sore jaw
- Unusual wear on the teeth
- Crowded teeth
- Chipped teeth
- Loud crunching sound during sleep
- Jaw pain
- Tiredness, irritability and poor concentration
- Afternoon sleepiness
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Digestive problems
- Skin allergies
Effects of Teeth Grinding
- Many cases of teeth grinding go undetected with no effects, while others cause headaches or earaches.
- The grinding sound can be a bother to other family members especially at night when everyone is asleep.
- In other cases, nighttime grinding and clenching can wear down tooth enamel, chip teeth, increase temperature sensitivity, and cause severe facial pain and jaw problems.
If your child occasionally grinds his or her teeth at night and isn’t showing any serious side effects, you can try to reduce or eliminate the habit without the intervention of a dentist in the following ways:
- Work to identify and decrease your child’s stress. Allow your child to talk openly about his or her feelings.
- Ensure that your child is getting a proper diet
- Since dehydration may be linked to bruxism, ensure that your child is drinking enough water.
In some cases, depending on the severity, a dentist may recommend that your child wears a protective night guard over his teeth while he or she sleeps to allow better dental care.
A night guard can help as it creates a barrier that will prevent the teeth from getting damaged and act as a cushion that will help reduce the stress and relax the muscles and joints.
Please note that development differs from one child to another.
Content intended for educational purposes only, and not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.
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Last reviewed March 2019