Teeth grinding is surprisingly common among children, teens and adults. Called bruxism (from Greek ebryxa, to gnash the teeth), it can be so perplexing and alarming to parents, especially when you are woken up in the middle of the night by the loud, screeching noise– but your child sleeps on.
What causes it? Aside from being an unconscious habit, some children grind their jaws to soothe themselves during teething. In the same way, some do it during an earache. Amphetamines (for ADHD) and antidepressants are both associated with increased incidence of teeth grinding.
Doesn’t it hurt? No. Bruxing is one of those unconscious habits a child can get, like cheek biting, nail biting and thumb sucking. Your child may grind his/her teeth during the day (diurnal) or at night (nocturnal). When awake, your child probably grinds his/her teeth when angry or studying, completely unaware of doing so! Bruxism often occurs during stressful situations and periods of intense concentration.
Point it out as it’s happening and your child can stop it. On the other hand, your child can’t consciously stop bruxing while asleep so this is a more challenging presentation to manage.
Can it damage my child’s teeth? Yes, it can. Excessive teeth grinding can wear down tooth enamel and may cause a headache, ear pain, jaw pain. But this is rare in adults, and even rarer in kids and teens. Tooth enamel is more often damaged by acids from juice, soft drinks and other sugary drinks and treats. If your dentist does trace your child’s dental problems to teeth grinding, a mouth guard or custom made retainer– a thin piece of plastic or acrylic– may be the solution.
What can we do to stop it? You can just let it pass, because your child will outgrow it. Some kids grind their teeth so hard they wake themselves up, and then go right back to sleep like nothing happened.
Your dentist may also recommend a specialist consultation with an ENT to look for upper airway obstruction. There have been links between bruxism and kids/ teens who have to breathe through their mouths when asleep.
Our orthodontists have expertise in diagnosing and managing this problem, especially when it is related to the way the upper and lower teeth relate. They can also fabricate the custom guards to be worn while sleeping when appropriate and, for severe cases, have colleagues in the community we can refer to that can further address the issue.
About Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan, the offices of Drs. Delaney, Plunkett, Ralstrom, Makowski, Thanasas, Ker, and Associates
Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan have specialized in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics since 1968. Our family-friendly and newly renovated office gives patients and families a more comfortable and consistent experience with dentistry from the very beginning. Our pediatric dentists treat children from newborn to 18 years of age while our orthodontists provide care for both children and adults and are proud to be Premier Providers of Invisalign and Invisalign Teen services. The ability to treat all patients with compassion and individuality, including those that may have special needs reaches beyond our facility, which has treatment rooms available for children who require additional privacy and customized care options. We pioneered valued hospital affiliations to allow dental services to be performed at DMC Children’s Hospital and St. John Macomb Hospital, when appropriate or necessary, and our specialists are also proud to be on staff at Henry Ford and Beaumont hospitals.