Teeth grinding also known as bruxism is a natural habit among children, especially those under the age of 11 years. Teeth grinding in children are measured in the realm of normal behavior. It rises to signify level of problem when the kid experiences severe tooth pain, wear or trouble sleeping. Well, the professionals in the health care do not agree on the specific level on which it should be treated. The causes of this problem are not completely understood. However, the psychological stress appears to play a significant role in teeth grinding in children.

Teeth Grinding in Children

Teeth grinding in children is the state in which a child gnash, grind, or clench his or her teeth. Well, if your child is suffering from teeth grinding then they can involuntarily clench their teeth in night as well as at day time.

There is no requirement of treatment in case of mild teeth grinding in children. However, in few cases the teeth grinding in children may be severe and frequent enough which can lead to headaches, damaged teeth, disorders, and related problems

It is imperative that you understand the signs and symptoms of teeth grinding in children because children with teeth grinding are unaware of their problem until their complications develop.

The Causes of Teeth Grinding in Children

Experts are not sure about the exact cause of teeth grinding in children. In a few cases, the child can grind teeth because the bottom and top of the teeth are not aligned properly. Some do it as a response to the pain, such as teething or earache. Children can also grind their teeth in order to ease the pain, similar to as they rub their sore muscle.

Stress, usually tension is another cause of teeth grinding in children. For an instance, a child may be worried about the exam in school or any changes in their routine (a new teacher or new sibling). Even fights with siblings and parents can cause the stress that will prompt jaw clenching or teeth grinding in children.

Some children who are hyperactive also have the problem of teeth grinding. Some children with other medical conditions like the cerebral palsy can develop teeth grinding.

Possible psychological or physical causes for teeth grinding in children include:

  • Response to pain from the teething or earache.
  • Emotions, like stress, anxiety, anger,tension or frustration.
  • Competitive, hyperactive or aggressive personality type.
  • Alignment of lower and upper teeth is abnormal (malocclusion)
  • Other sleep issues like sleep apnea.
  • Stomach acid refluxes entering into the esophagus.

Signs and Symptoms of Teeth Grinding in Children

The following are the signs and symptoms of teeth grinding in children:

  • Damage due to chewing on the inside of your cheek
  • Teeth that are fractured, flattened, loose or chipped
  • Exposing deeper layers of the tooth due to worn tooth enamel
  • Increase in sensitivity of tooth
  • Jaw pain or soreness or facial pain
  • Pain which is similar to earache, but it is not the problem with ears.
  • Tight or tired jaw muscles

If you observe that your kid is grinding his or her teeth or you find similar signs and symptoms of the teeth grinding then it suggested that you take your child to the dentist.

Risk Factors for Teeth Grinding in Children

Below factors can amplify the risk of teeth grinding in children:

  • Age: This problem is a common in young kids, but it vanishes during the teen years.
  • Stress: Increased stress or anxiety can also lead to teeth grinding. So can frustration and anger.
  • Personality type: The risk of teeth grinding in children can be increased if the child has the personality type which is competitive, aggressive or hyperactive.

Tests to Diagnose Teeth Grinding in Children

Many children grind their teeth but they are unaware of it. In most of the cases are siblings or the parents is the one who identifies the problem.

Some signs to watch for:

  • Pain while chewing food.
  • Grinding noise when your kid is sleeping.
  • Complaints related to the sore face or jaw when the child wakes up in the morning.

If you observe that your kid is grinding his or her teeth, then you should immediately take them to the dentist so that the expert can examine the unusual teeth or chipped enamel. The expert will also spray water and air on the teeth to check for the unusual sensitivity.

If the expert found damage on the teeth, then dentist might ask your kid some questions, like:

  • Are you angry with someone?
  • Are you worried about anything at school or home?
  • What do you do before bed?
  • How do you feel before bed?

Answers to this question will help the dentist to determine the cause which can be psychological (stress),oranatomical(misaligned teeth). It helps the dentist to come up with an effective treatment plan.

To estimate the level of the teeth grinding in children, the dentist might check for:

  • Noticeable dental abnormalities like missing or broken teeth or poor alignment of tooth.
  • Tenderness in the jaw muscles.

The dental exam might also detect related disorders which can cause the similar ear or jaw pain like the temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) or ear infections or other dental issues.

If the dentist identifies a considerable psychological component in the teeth grinding problem, then they can refer you to a counselor, therapist or sleep expert. The specialist of sleep may perform more tests like video monitoring, sleep apnea and measures how often the muscles of jaw tightens when your child sleeps.

Treatment Options to Get Rid of Teeth Grinding in Children

In most of the cases, there is no need of treatment for teeth grinding in children. Many kids overcome the problem of teeth grinding without any treatment. Well, if the problem is complicated then dental approach is necessary along with medications and therapies.

Dental Approaches for Treating Teeth Grinding in Children

If your kid has teeth grinding problem, the doctor will suggest you the ways to improve as well as preserve the teeth. Below are the methods to correct or prevent any damage to your teeth, it might not bring to an end the teeth grinding in children:

  • Dental correction for teeth grinding in children. The teeth that are not aligned together should be corrected instantly. In some severe cases when the tooth leads to sensitivity, then the dentist will reshape the chewing surfaces of your child's teeth.
  • Mouth guards and Splints for teeth grinding in children. They are designed to keep the teeth separated which avoid damage that is caused by the grinding and chewing. These can be buildup of soft material or hard acrylic and fix over your lower or upper teeth.

Therapies for Teeth Grinding in Children

Some therapies might help ease teeth grinding in children, like:

  • Behavior therapy for teeth grinding in children. When you identify teeth grinding in your child, then they can easily change the behavior by just practicing the proper jaw and mouth position. Talk to your doctor about the best positions for jaw and mouth.
  • Stress management for solving teeth grinding in children. Some children grind their teeth because of stress, then you can prevent the problem with the help of professional counseling that can promote relaxation, such as meditation or exercise.
  • Biofeedback technique for eliminating teeth grinding in children. If your child finds it hard to change his or her habits, then they might be benefited from biofeedback, which is a type of complementary medicine which uses the monitoring procedure and equipment that will help you to control the activities of your muscles in the jaw area.

Medications to Treat Teeth Grinding in Children

In some cases the medications are not found effective in the treatment for teeth grinding in children. There is requirement of more research to determine the effectiveness of medications.

Some medications that can be used in the treatment of teeth grinding involve:

  • Muscle relaxants for teeth grinding in children. Some cases the doctor might suggest the consumption of muscle relaxant prior to you go to sleep for a certain period of duration.
  • If you have any side effects from the medication for teeth grinding in children,inform the doctor and the doctor will immediately change the medication.

Complications for Teeth Grinding in Children

In some cases, teeth grinding in children do not lead to serious complications. However, the severe teeth grinding in children may lead to:

  • Facial pain.
  • Tension-type headaches.
  • Damage to your jaw, restorations, crowns or teeth.
  • TMJ disorders (Temporomandibular Joints) near the jaw and teeth.

Helping Children with Teeth Grinding

It does not matter if the cause is psychological or physical, the child can control the teeth grinding juts by relaxing before the bedtime. It can be done by listening to soothing music, taking warm shower or bath or reading books.

If the teeth grinding in children is caused due to stress then discuss the problem with your child and provide the child support reassurance.

In a few cases, the basic stress relievers are not enough to stop the teeth grinding. If your child is acting unusual or differently, or have trouble sleeping, then the doctor will suggest you further evaluation. It can help to determine the cause of problems or stress which will help in the production of good treatment plan.

How Long Does Teeth Grinding in Children Last?

When the kids lose their baby teeth, it is the time when they stop grinding the teeth. Well, some kids continue the grind into adolescence. If the cause of bruxism is stress, then it will be continued until the stress eases out.

Preventing Teeth Grinding in Children

In some children the teeth grinding is a natural reaction to development and growth, whereas most of the cases cannot be prevented. Taking your child for routine visits to dentist can help you find as well as treat teeth grinding in children.

Some helpful tips to help a kid to stop grinding his or her teeth include:

  • Ask your doctor or dentist to monitor your kid's teeth if she or he is a grinder.
  • Decrease your kid's stress level, specifically just before bed.
  • Try stretching exercises and massage to relax the muscles.
  • Ensure your kid's diet includes plenty of liquid and water because dehydration may be associated to teeth grinding.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: October 6, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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