How to Stop Teeth Grinding in Children: Causes and Treatment

by | Feb 6, 2024 | Resources

Is your little one grinding their teeth at night? You’re certainly not the only parent to face this issue. Teeth grinding, medically known as bruxism, affects quite a few kids and most of the time is a normal part of growing up and having new teeth come through. But in some cases it can be severe and require professional assessment and treatment.

At Beaches Dental Mona Vale, we’re committed to looking after your child’s dental well-being. In this article, we’ll discuss what might cause teeth grinding in children, how to spot it, and the ways it can be treated.

What is Teeth Grinding?

Teeth grinding (bruxism) is when children clench or grind their teeth without realising it—usually during their sleep. It’s not uncommon for kids to do this but occasionally, especially in pre-teens and teens  regular grinding may lead to wear on their enamel, jaw discomfort or headaches.

Different Types of Bruxism

There are two main types of bruxism: sleep bruxism and awake bruxism. Sleep bruxism often happens during deeper stages of sleep and might go unnoticed unless someone hears the grinding sounds at night or a dentist spots signs on the child’s teeth. Awake bruxism occurs while a child is conscious and might be seen when they’re focused on a task or feeling anxious. Both types can need professional assessment and treatment for proper management, especially in severe cases.

The Frequency of Bruxism Among Kids

Most parents find it surprising to learn that research indicates between 17% and 49% of children experience teeth grinding at some point. The reasons behind this vary—it could be due to pain from teething or earaches, misaligned teeth, stress, certain medical conditions or medications, or disturbed sleeping patterns.

Spotting the Signs

Parents should keep an eye out for signs like worn-down teeth, complaints of jaw pain, or grinding noises during sleep. If these symptoms pop up, it’s time for a dental check-up where your dentist can check the severity of bruxism and treatment options can be explored if required.

Kids experiencing disrupted sleep because of bruxism  or other sleep related disorders may also show tiredness throughout the day which can affect mood and concentration.

Understanding Why Kids Grind Their Teeth

It’s important for parents to recognise potential triggers for bruxism in children, such as erupting baby or adult teeth or stress-related anxiety states in older children and teens. Other factors that may increase the chance of your child grinding at night can include certain other medical conditions especially other sleep related disorders such as sleep apnea, certain medication as well as dental misalignment of either the teeth or jaws or both causing increased tension on the facial muscles.

Diagnosing Bruxism in Children

To determine if your child is grinding their teeth, an evaluation by a dentist is necessary. This includes checking for wear on the teeth and asking about symptoms like jaw pain or trouble sleeping. Sometimes, especially if a sleep disorder might be involved, your child may need a sleep study done while they sleep to get to the bottom of the issue.

Effective Treatments for Teeth Grinding in Children

Treatment options are varied and depend on each child’s specific situation. They range from using night guards (dental splints) to orthodontic treatments, as well as addressing any underlying health conditions that might be contributing to the problem.

Night guards 

For teens, who may be grinding a custom-fitted night guard, also known as a dental or occlusal splint, made by a dental professional can help prevent further wear to the teeth, by keeping teeth apart during sleep. It’s one of the simplest ways to protect against tooth grinding.

Orthodontic Treatments

If misaligned teeth are causing the grinding, an orthodontist may recommend braces, aligners or other devices to realign the teeth and relieve stress on the jaw.

Addressing Health Issues

In some cases, managing bruxism means tackling other health issues first—like treating sleep apnea or dealing with stress and anxiety through counselling. Your dentist can work with your child’s GP or Paediatrician to help manage bruxism while other medical conditions are being treated.

Preventive Strategies

As parents, proactive steps towards maintaining good sleep hygiene and scheduling regular dental check-ups can be key preventive measures against bruxism. Good habits like these can fortify your child’s oral and sleep health early on.

Long-term Outlook

Most children will grow out of night grinding as they finish growing and have all their adult teeth finish coming through. Many children will just need monitoring over this time but in some cases treatment may be required and options can be discussed with your dentist to protect their teeth from more serious dental problems.

Support From Beaches Dental Mona Vale

We at Beaches Dental Mona Vale offer comprehensive care that includes not just treatments for bruxism but also preventive advice tailored to keep your child’s smile bright and healthy. Our team delivers personalised attention every step of the way—from fitting custom-made night guards to offering top-notch orthodontic care when needed. 

In Summary

Teeth grinding is common among children but manageable with the right approach. Early detection, monitoring and intervention when needed are crucial in maintaining the health of kids teeth. With guidance from experienced dentists and a proactive stance from parents—including regular check-ups—we can give our kids a great start for a healthy smile.