Tooth Grinding (Bruxism)

Ah – that peaceful moment when your child finally drifts off into a deep sleep. You take a sigh of relief and enjoy the silence. But wait. It’s quickly interrupted with the uncomfortable sound of your child’s teeth grinding against each other.

Despite the bone-chilling noise your child may be making, try to relax. You’re not alone. Grinding of the teeth, or bruxism, is a very common occurrence in children. In fact, on average, 2-3 out of 10 children will grind their teeth.

Bruxism primarily occurs during sleep or stressful times. Some causes may be misaligned teeth, response to pain, stress (even mild!), or hyperactivity. The good news is that most kids outgrow bruxism once they lose all of their baby teeth.

Most of the time there are no adverse effects from tooth grinding. However, some children may experience some mild difficulties, including headache, earache, jaw pain, and wearing down of tooth enamel. In more severe cases, chronic grinding can lead to tooth sensitivity, chipped teeth, face pain, and TMJ. But these are rare.

Diagnosis is typically made from a family member noticing the grinding noises. Other times children will complain of soreness when waking and/or pain with chewing.

A dentist is typically the best resource for concerns about bruxism,  because they can evaluate both the teeth and the mouth. Many cases can simply be observed until the child outgrows it. Others may need a special mouth guard to prevent continued wear of the teeth.

Helping your child try to cope with any stressors in their lives can be beneficial to reducing bruxism. Finding a relaxing routine prior to bedtime can also improve outcomes.

If you have concerns regarding your child and teeth grinding, feel free to bring it up with your KPP provider, or with your child’s dentist.

Alyssa Papa, a certified Physician Assistant, joined Kids Plus in June 2012.