Palos Pediatric Dentistry

Tooth Grinding in Children

If your child grinds his or her teeth (a condition called bruxism), you probably already know.  To me, it's like the sound of nails on a chalkboard.  Many parents are concerned that this grinding can lead to problems in the future.  Some of the signs and symptoms of teeth grinding in children include:

  • Noise - as mentioned, it's a very distinct noise that sometimes can be heard from an adjacent room
  • Worn teeth - may be a sign of grinding, but there are other causes too
  • Sensitive teeth - grinding may expose the sensitive layer of the teeth, called dentin, resulting in sensitivity
  • Headaches, especially in the morning after a night of grinding during sleep

Tooth grinding in young children is very common, and is considered normal.  If the only result of the grinding is a terrible sound that you or a sibling hears when your child is sleeping, we often jokingly recommend ear plugs.  If some of the other signs and symptoms above are becoming a problem, then other treatment may be required, especially in teenagers.  Most children outgrow their grinding habit, yet some continue into adulthood.  Parents who grind their teeth may have children who are at higher risk for continued tooth grinding.

While there is no cure for tooth grinding, there are some approaches that help to minimize the damage resulting from grinding.  Some treatments include:

  • Soft nightguard - similar to a sports mouthguard, this is the most economical option, but may not be helpful in all situations
  • Hard/Soft nightguard - more expensive, but can be more effective
  • Stress reduction - often grinding can be stress related; reduce stress and reduce grinding
  • Tooth alignment - some grinding may be the result of teeth not fitting together properly; in this case, orthodontic treatment may be indicated

At each check-up visit, we evaluate your child's TMJ (jaw joint), the chewing surfaces of the teeth, and alignment of the teeth for signs of grinding.  If tooth grinding is an issue that needs treatment, our team will recommend treatment that is appropriate based on your child's age and stage of development.  Questions about your child's tooth grinding?  Feel free to call any time to discuss your concerns with a member of our team!

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