More Than a Bad Habit: What All Parents Should Know About Tooth Grinding in Children

Does your child grind their teeth at night? If yes, you can take comfort in the fact that it’s not only your kids.

About 15 percent of all children and 10 percent of adults do the same thing. It’s also more common among folks with a family history. Estimates show it could be as high as 50 percent.

Also referred to as bruxism, tooth grinding in children happens a lot and is more pronounced when they’re asleep. This is why you’ll probably notice it more at night when you look in on the kids.

The good news is that sometimes children can outgrow it, but that can take time.

Like a good parent, chances are you want to know what you can do to fix this. Read on to learn more about bruxism and what to do about it.   

Causes of Tooth Grinding in Children

Before examining the condition, it’s imperative to understand the cause. We’ve found that when parents understand why their kids grind their teeth, they’re more likely to relax about it. 

Medical specialists aren’t particularly sure why teeth grinding happens. But, the common reasons include improperly aligned teeth, response to pain. When this happens, the children tend to grind their teeth in the hopes of easing the pain. And it does work. 

For instance, when children develop an earache, they tend to grind their teeth to get some relief. Works in the same manner as when you rub your muscles during an injury.   

Another major cause of teeth grinding is stress. This could also present in the form of anger or tension. If your child feels worried about something, for instance, they may end up grinding their teeth in a bid to cope. 

Some scenarios that can trigger tooth grinding in children include new routines, upcoming school tests, and arguments with siblings and parents. 

Another commonality in kids that grind their teeth is that they’re hyperactive. Some medications can also cause bruxism in children. Most of the time, it’s hard to pinpoint the cause of this new habit. 

However, once that trigger is one, it tends to resolve itself. This is particularly when the trigger is external. But, it if it’s physiological, as seen in kids with crowded or misaligned teeth, the solution will be different. 

Dangers of Teeth Grinding

While teeth grinding will not cause any major health issues, it’s effects can negatively impact the children’s quality of life. It may also affect their social lives and that of their parents. So, if your child has bruxism, chances are they may suffer from one or more of the following issues.

The first is earaches or headaches. Most cases of teeth grinding tend to resolve themselves and leave little or no side effects. But, when it goes on for too long, the child will have headaches and earaches. 

Also, doing this in public is bound to affect other people, as people are sensitive to the sounds of grinding teeth. The major side effect though is a worn enamel and an uneven set of teeth. When left to fester for long, it can result in a severe case of crossbite, uneven jaws and misshapen face. 

Children might also suffer from chipped or broken teeth, jaw issues, facial pain, and migraines. Jaw pain left for too long will also result in a condition called temporomandibular joint disease (TMJ).

While it’s not debilitating or anything, the discomfort is enough for it to be an issue. Please note that temporomandibular joint disease (TMJ) caused by teeth grinding is usually an extreme case. 

While there are treatment options for that, the child might have to see a therapist to figure out the root cause of the problem. 

Can You Prevent Teeth Grinding?

Not really. It’s not like health issues caused by lifestyle choices. It’s usually unconscious, and mostly a reaction to external stimuli. Think of it as part of the child’s growing process.

Most of the time, it goes away by itself, and may not require any treatments. However, if the child is perpetually stressed and you can link the teeth grinding to stress, remove them from that trigger and they should be fine. You should also work to understand the underlying cause of their stress. If it’s psychological, treat the root cause first. 

Remember, children tend to react to the environment at home. If your home isn’t conducive, or there’s a lot of tension from other people, it can trigger these teeth grinding episodes. You can learn more about that here. 

What Can You Do to Fix it?

As stated earlier, bruxism usually resolves itself with age. The children outgrow it, but it can take a while. As a parent, you need to pay attention to your child.

Once you notice that it’s taking longer than 2 weeks, you can take the child to the dentist. Your dentist will often prescribe the appropriate treatment option for them.

For instance, many will recommend the use of night guard if the teeth grinding is persistent and causing jaw pain for the child. The night guard is usually molded to the child’s teeth and designed to fit the kid.

The good news is even though it takes some getting used to, children will quickly adapt to it. When they do, the results are good. 

Also, you can use a few relaxation methods to help them minimize the occurrence of teeth grinding at night. Because it’s often associated with stress, adopting effective stress relief techniques like giving the kids some warm bath, reading a good bedtime story and playing soothing music can help them sleep better. 

Can You Do More About Teeth Grinding in Kids?

First, find out their cause of anxiety if you’re sure that their teeth grinding is stress-related. Sometimes an anxiety issue can lead to tooth grinding in children. Treat the anxiety before anything else. For instance, children going to camp for the first time can feel stressed about it. Simply talking about it and reassuring them can ease their fears and do the trick. 

If it persists, speak with your child’s doctor to find a lasting solution. For more information on children’s health and lifestyle, keep checking our blog.

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