Understanding Bruxism in Children - Causes, Signs, and Treatments

Last updated: September 9th, 2023
Bruxism is the involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth, primarily during sleep. It is believed that children may experience bruxism from 6-50 percent of the time depending on factors such as stress and anxiety.

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is the repetitive grinding or clenching of teeth. There are two distinct types of bruxism: sleep bruxism and waking bruxism. Waking bruxism is believed to be more common and usually consists primarily of teeth clenching without grinding. Studies estimate anywhere from 6% up to almost 50% of children experience bruxism.

Why Do Kids Grind Their Teeth?

Bruxism is not considered dangerous in and of itself, but the constant grinding or clenching of teeth can cause jaw pain and damage to the teeth over time. It is natural to be concerned if you notice your child grinding their teeth in their sleep.

This is considered a normal response to factors such as stress, anxiety, or other emotional or environmental stressors. During sleep, adults and children may engage in teeth grinding without being fully aware they are doing it.

Signs Your Child May Be Grinding Their Teeth at Night

Not sure if your child is grinding or clenching their teeth? Common signs of teeth grinding and clenching in children include:

  • Sore jaw or teeth
  • Morning headaches
  • Sounds of teeth grinding or grinding
  • Worn or flattened areas on the chewing surfaces of the teeth
  • Difficulty sleeping

Diagnosing Bruxism in Children

If you suspect your child is grinding their teeth, it is important to have them examined by a qualified dentist or doctor to rule out any dental or medical conditions that may be contributing to the bruxism. Your dentist can use several methods to diagnose bruxism in children.

The most common method is to examine the teeth and jaw for signs of bruxism, such as worn or flattened areas on the chewing surfaces of the teeth or jaw pain. Your dentist may also take X-rays of your child’s mouth to view the shape of the jaw and teeth.

Treatments for Bruxism

Dentists and medical professionals may recommend various treatments to help reduce the effects of bruxism in children. These treatments may include:

  • Stress management or counseling for emotional and psychological issues causing bruxism.
  • Writing and playing strategies to manage stress, worries and anxiety.
  • Medication or supplements to reduce the muscle activity that triggers teeth grinding.
  • Mouth guards and occlusal splints to reduce the pressure on the teeth.
  • Relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation to improve sleep.

When to Talk to Your Doctor or Dentist

If your child is experiencing pain or tenderness in their jaw, teeth, or face, it is important to seek the advice of your doctor or dentist. Your doctor or dentist can examine your child and recommend the proper diagnosis and treatment for their symptoms. Proper diagnosis and treatment can help to ensure that your child's teeth grinding is not causing any serious damage to their teeth.

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