Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is relatively common in children, and the Cleveland Clinic estimates between 15-33% of children grind their teeth. Although many children outgrow it, it does have the potential to cause damage to your child’s teeth, resulting in cracked or loose teeth over time. The good news – in many cases a mouth guard can offer an excellent solution to grinding to protect your grinder’s teeth.
Signs Your Child is Grinding
Many parents realize their child is grinding because they hear their child loudly grinding while they’re sleeping. However, even if you haven’t heard it, other signs may indicate that your child is a grinder, such as:
- Pain while chewing
- Headaches in the morning
- Complaining of facial pain or jaw pain
- Tooth pain
- Tooth sensitivity
- Wear on teeth discovered by a dentist
Causes of Teeth Grinding
Many different things can cause bruxism in children, and some of the most common cause include:
- Stress – Stress is the most common cause of teeth grinding in both children in adults. Children often have a tougher time verbalizing their problems, and grinding can be a sign that something is bothering them.
- The Eruption of New Teeth – Sometimes the eruption of new teeth can result in discomfort and pain that causes grinding in children.
- Misalignments – If your child’s teeth aren’t properly aligned, bruxism may occur.
- Tension Headaches – Some studies have shown that bruxism is more common in children who get tension headaches.
- Pain – The pain from a cold, ear infection or other illness may result in grinding, particularly at night.
Effects of Grinding on Children
While teeth grinding may be common, it can have some adverse effects. Some of the dangers of bruxism may include:
- Lack of Good Sleep – Grinding at night is actually considered a sleep disorder, and it can disrupt your child’s sleep.
- Damage to Teeth Enamel – Over time, continual grinding may wear down the enamel on your child’s teeth. Eventually, this can lead to the exposure of the dentine layer, making the tooth more prone to damage and decay. In some cases, teeth may crack or become loose.
- Headaches and Pain – Bruxism also has the potential to cause headaches, jaw pain, ear pain, and facial pain. If it’s not treated, it can have a negative impact on your child’s quality of life.
Mouth Guards as a Solution for Grinding
In many cases, bruxism will disappear as your child grows. However, if it’s turning into a problem and putting your child’s oral health at risk, talk to your dentist about a mouth guard. Your dentist will be able to tell if grinding is causing damage and can prescribe a mouth guard to be worn at night to keep your child’s teeth protected. Keep in mind, since your child is still growing, the mouth guard may need to be replaced from time to time to ensure it fits properly as your child grows. It’s also important to realize that a night guard isn’t a cure for grinding – it only helps protect your child’s teeth from further damage.
Other Ways to Stop or Prevent Grinding
A mouth guard for your grinder can prevent damage to their teeth. There are other steps you can take to try to stop or prevent grinding, such as:
- Talking to Your Child’s Pediatrician – Discuss grinding with your child’s pediatrician as well as your dentist. They may be able to try to find out what’s bothering your child or point you in the right direction for further help.
- Relax Your Child Before Bed – Try doing things before bed that will relax your child, such as playing relaxing music, giving them a warm bath, or reading a bedtime story together. A glass of warm milk or some gentle stretching may also prove helpful.
- Talk to Your Child – Ask your child about feelings of stress or anxiety. Helping them communicate their feelings and working to relieve their stress levels may help.
It’s never a good idea to ignore teeth grinding in your child. Severe grinding can cause tooth loss or even lead to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), which causes pain and other symptoms. If your child is grinding, book an appointment with your pediatric dentist right away so you can address the problem before it causes damage to your child’s teeth.