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Specializing in dentistry for infants, children & adolescents.

Why do Kids Grind Their Teeth? Possible Reasons Explained

Do you hear your child grinding their teeth at night? If so, you’re not alone. Teeth grinding, clinically known as bruxism, is a common problem that can affect both children and adults. While there could be multiple factors influencing your child’s teeth grinding, there is no one central cause for all cases.

Depending on the age and how many adult teeth are present teeth grinding can be a sign of a child being in a deeper state of sleep or as you get closer to a full set of adult teeth affect a person’s teeth and jaw. If left unaddressed, it could result in pain or damage to the tooth. To help your child keep a happy and healthy smile, we are going to cover some possible reasons why they might be grinding their teeth and what you can do to help them resolve it.

Possible Reasons that Your Child Could be Grinding Their Teeth at Night

Grinding While Sleeping

Many children grind their teeth at night while they are sleeping. Sometimes it can get so loud that you can hear it through the door.  Although it is difficult to hear and can be a little bit scary for the parent, this sleep bruxism is somewhat common and not a major concern for the patients overall dental health in most cases.  Make sure to bring it up at your next dental visit if you have concerns as depending on their age and how many baby teeth, they have lost there are different topics that your patient should be evaluated for.

Experiencing Stress or Anxiety

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, stress and anxiety could be contributing factors to teeth grinding in children. Common sources of these feelings could be issues with school, social relationships, or experiences in the home.  This is often exhibited more as grinding occurring during the day while your child is awake.

To determine if your child is dealing with stress or anxiety, the hospital recommends the following:

  • Calmly ask your child if they are stressed or worried about anything at school, with friends, or at home. If any issues in these parts of their life are present, take steps to get them the help they need to resolve them.
  • Do activities with them to help them relax, such as listening to calming music or reading a fun book together.
  • Make an appointment with their pediatric dentist for a dental examination. The dentist may outfit them with a special mouth guard to wear at night to help prevent future teeth grinding.

Dental Misalignment

Dental misalignment is another possible reason why someone could be grinding their teeth. This can be due to how your jaw just naturally grew or as a result of a parafunctional habit such as using a pacifier or having a thumb sucking habit when you are younger.

When you go to the dentist, your child will be evaluated for the position of their teeth and how they interlock with the opposing jaw. Issues such as crowding, a crossbite, or teeth being rotated are things that could have a negative effect on how their teeth contact. If you have any concerns, be sure to bring this up to the dentist at your next appointment and ask them what treatment they recommend for a misalignment.

Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Research suggests that secondhand smoke exposure can place a child at risk of developing sleep bruxism. If you or your partner uses tobacco, it’s important to take steps to quit or eliminate your child’s exposure to smoke. Not only will this improve your child’s oral health, but it will also have positive effects on their overall health as well.

There is a wide range of resources available to help you quit smoking. Talk to your doctor about what quitting smoking method might work best for you.

One of the many other reasons

It is impossible for us to list out all of the potential causes for dental bruxism in one blog post but there are many more that could be a factor.  There are behavioral, environmental, and genetic components to this that should all be considered when evaluating a patient for grinding issues to make sure that you are being properly followed and cared for.  Bruxism can vary from not a concern to  something that depending on the severity and how it affects the patient’s lifestyle (whether it be chronic pain or difficulty sleeping) could require a referral to a TMJ specialist. Due to this variability it’s always best to ask the question to a qualified dental professional to make sure they are aware and tracking your child’s dental and facial development.

Treatment for Teeth Grinding

Give it Time

For younger children especially those who have all baby teeth, this is a temporary issue as grinding can be soothing especially when it occurs at night while sleeping. As more adult teeth transition in and start to bite on other adult teeth this comforting/soothing feeling gets replaced discomfort and the majority of children who grind their teeth at night stop when enough adult teeth are biting on each other

Protective Night Guard

If your child does grind their teeth at night and other treatment options have been ruled out, their dentist may recommend a night guard for them to wear. This will help protect their teeth from damage and minimize the effects of grinding and clenching.

This night guard is custom made to the patient’s teeth, the mouth guard will need to be replaced periodically but is not often used until patient is older and alternative treatment options have been considered and ideally, they have all adult teeth and any potential orthodontics treatment that may be indicated has occurred.

Orthodontics

In some cases, your child’s teeth grinding could be due to an underlying dental issue. In these instances, their dentist may recommend Orthodontics. This could include braces, Invisalign/Aligner Therapy, monitoring their developing jaw and waiting for the best time to begin orthodontic therapy

Children’s Psychotherapy

If stress or anxiety are contributing to your child to grind their teeth, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment with a child psychologist. Working through their thoughts and feelings with a counselor can help them learn how to cope with and manage their stress and anxiety in a healthy way.

The therapist will work with you and your child to come up with a treatment plan that meets their needs. This could include activities such as relaxation techniques, journaling, and positive thinking.

Take Action

If you notice that your child is grinding their teeth, schedule an appointment with their pediatric dentist as soon as possible. This can help quickly address the teeth grinding and prevent damage to the teeth.

At Where Smiles Grow, we provide caring dentistry to infants, children, and adolescents throughout the Latham, Delmar, and Schodack regions of New York State. Get started today and request an appointment at any one of our locations.