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Teeth Grinding in Children

By Vishant Nath DMD

Parents normally do not expect to hear odd noises coming from a child’s bedroom at night.  If you hear a gnashing or grinding sound from your child while they sleep, it’s usually nothing to be too concerned about.  There are several causes of teeth grinding and there are options for treating the most severe cases.

The scientific term for teeth grinding is bruxism.  Bruxism is quite common in children.  Its cause can be dependent on the age group of your child.  Children younger than 7-8 years still have many of their primary teeth.  Primary teeth shift and change quite a bit.  During this phase of change, a child may experience an abnormal bite that might feel odd to them.  This can lead to teeth grinding at night.  Most children who experience teeth grinding at a young age will outgrow it once the 6-year molars come in.  Once a more permanent bite pattern is established, the teeth grinding tends to go away.

In older children and teenagers, teeth grinding can be caused by stress.  If you notice teeth grinding in older children you can try talking with them to see if they are especially worried about anything in particular.  

In all cases of teeth grinding its best to speak to your child’s dentist to ensure that the grinding is not damaging the teeth.  A parent may not even realize that teeth grinding is occurring, but the dentist can tell by looking for wear patterns on the surfaces of the teeth.  

Teeth grinding can become severe in some cases.  If steps are not taken to protect the surfaces of the teeth, the grinding can lead to the wearing down of the enamel, tooth chipping, and increased temperature sensitivity of the teeth.  Extreme cases can even lead to facial or jaw discomfort and temporomandibular joint disease, more commonly known as TMJ.   

For the most part in primary teeth, the dentist will simply wait for the child to outgrow the grinding as the permanent teeth come in.  In cases of grinding in permanent teeth however, the dentist may recommend that the child wear a mouth guard at night to protect the teeth from the grinding.  These are similar to the mouth guards worn in sporting events.  They can be molded to specifically fit the individual’s mouth to best protect the teeth.  

Visiting your pediatric dentist every six months is a great opportunity to keep up with any changes you may notice with your child’s teeth or mouth.  Staying on top of these changes can help to ensure that your child’s oral health remains at its best!
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