Teeth grinding in children is a subject that often crops up in kids’ dentistry, particularly with first-time parents. Maybe you’ve noticed your little one is constantly moving their mouth while asleep, and you may have heard a grating sound when their teeth meet. Both of these are common signs of sleep bruxism.
Teeth grinding in youngsters is more common than you think, with studies estimating that anywhere from 6% to 50% of children grind their teeth during the night. Furthermore, ABC News reported that dentists saw a surge in teeth grinding in children and adults during the Covid-19 pandemic.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism refers to the constant grinding and clenching of teeth. There are two types of bruxism: awake bruxism and sleep bruxism. The former is more common and usually consists of teeth clenching without the teeth grinding.
While it’s natural to feel concerned when your child grinds their teeth during sleep, in most cases, it’s unlikely to cause any long-term damage, and it is likely to continue into adulthood. Sometimes teeth grinding can be exacerbated by anxiety or medical problems, so it’s always best to have it checked during a kids’ dentistry appointment.
Teeth grinding in children – What causes it?
No one knows why some children grind their teeth and others don’t, there’s a genetic influence usually. It could be exacerbated:
- If your little one has discomfort or earache from teething and is clenching their teeth to ease the pain.
- If their teeth are misaligned.
- As a result of allergies, nutritional deficiencies, dehydration or medication they are receiving.
In older children, teeth grinding is more likely to get worsened by stress and anxiety. For example, they may be worried about starting a new school, moving house, or even the birth of a sibling.
If you notice your little one is grinding their teeth most nights, it’s a good idea to make a kid’s dentistry appointment with our friendly, caring dentists. Symptoms such as cracks, chipped tooth enamel, and even broken teeth are signs of bruxism, as are misaligned teeth, which may be making the problem worse.
Teeth grinding treatment
A night guard or occlusal splint can be made to manage grinding. While it won’t cure grinding, it will prevent damage from teeth rubbing against each other. It is recommended after facial-skeletal growth has ceased, which is in late adolescence.
You can help your child by getting them into a relaxing pre-bedtime routine. A warm bath, soothing music and bedtime stories can help them drift off to sleep more calmly. Older children should limit their time on electronic devices and be provided with a nutritious snack low in added sugars.
If you are wondering how to manage teeth grinding in children, there is no specific bruxism treatment in kids’ dentistry. Instead, here are a few handy tips that might help:
- Talk to your child about what is bothering them and try to help them find a solution to the problem.
- Help them relax before bedtime with a warm shower and a cuddle.
- If they have developed a sore jaw, there are jaw exercises and anti-inflammatories to take.
Meanwhile, relax knowing that the teeth damage caused by grinding is usually not significant and there are management strategies in late adolescence.
PubMed.Gov: Prevalence of sleep bruxism in children: a systematic review
ABC News.go.com: Dentists say teeth grinding is surging during COVID-19 pandemic
PubMed.Gov: Sleep bruxism in children: relationship with screen-time and sugar consumption