Young girl clenching teeth.

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a common issue that affects many people, including children. While it can be a temporary problem that resolves on its own, persistent teeth grinding can lead to tooth damage, jaw pain, and other oral health issues.

As a parent, it’s important to be aware of the signs of teeth grinding so you can seek appropriate treatment if needed, especially since children may not recognize the signs or notice these issues.

What Causes Teeth Grinding in Children?

Before we dive into the signs of bruxism, let’s take a quick look at why children grind their teeth in the first place. There are several potential causes, including:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Misaligned teeth or bite issues
  • Sleep disorders like sleep apnea
  • Certain medications
  • Genetics (teeth grinding can run in families)

This is by no means an exhaustive list. In many cases, the exact cause of a child’s teeth grinding is unknown. However, identifying and addressing potential triggers can help reduce the frequency and severity of bruxism.

Common Signs of Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding often occurs during sleep, so it can be difficult for parents to spot. However, there are several tell-tale signs that may indicate your child is grinding their teeth at night:

Grinding noises during sleep

One of the most obvious signs of bruxism is the sound of teeth grinding or clenching during sleep. If you hear a grating or gnashing noise as your child sleeps at night, it’s a good indication they may be grinding their teeth.

Complaints of Jaw Pain or Soreness

Teeth grinding puts a lot of pressure on the jaw muscles and joints, which can lead to pain and soreness. If your child frequently complains of jaw discomfort, especially in the morning, it could be a sign of nighttime bruxism.

Frequent Headaches

The muscle tension caused by teeth grinding can also lead to headaches. If your child often wakes up with a headache or experiences frequent headaches throughout the day, bruxism may be to blame.

Worn or Chipped Teeth

Over time, the repetitive friction of teeth grinding can wear down tooth enamel, leading to visibly worn or chipped teeth. If you notice that your child’s teeth look shorter or flatter than usual, or if they have any chipped or cracked teeth, it’s worth investigating for bruxism.

Increased Tooth Sensitivity

As tooth enamel wears away from grinding, the underlying layer of dentin becomes exposed. This can cause increased sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks. If your child suddenly develops tooth sensitivity, it could be a sign of enamel loss.

Diagnosing and Treating Teeth Grinding

If you suspect your child is grinding their teeth, the first step is to schedule a dental exam. We can look for signs of wear on the teeth and assess the overall health of their jaw and facial muscles.

Treatment for teeth grinding depends on the underlying cause and severity of the issue. Some potential options include:

  • Stress reduction techniques
  • Orthodontic treatment to correct misaligned teeth
  • A custom mouthguard to protect the teeth during sleep
  • Medications to relax the jaw muscles

In many cases, children outgrow bruxism on their own without needing significant intervention. However, it’s still important to monitor the issue and take steps to prevent tooth damage and other complications.

Protect Your Child’s Smile

Teeth grinding is a common childhood issue, but it’s not something to ignore. By being aware of the signs of bruxism and seeking appropriate treatment when needed, you can help protect your child’s smile and prevent long-term oral health issues.

If you’re concerned about your child’s teeth grinding or have noticed any of the signs, call us today to schedule a pediatric dentist appointment!