Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry

The Gritty Truth About Teeth Grinding

The Gritty Truth About Teeth Grinding

Reviewed by Dr. Henry Martinez, DMD

While often associated with adults, teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can occur at any stage of childhood, even as early as when toddlers first get their baby teeth.

Teeth grinding is a common issue among both toddlers and teens that can cause long-term damage to their dental health if not treated properly. As a parent, you may be asking: Why does my kid grind his teeth?At Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry, our experienced team is dedicated to helping you protect your child’s precious smile by addressing their teeth grinding. In this post, we’ll explore why teeth grinding occurs, the potential consequences it can have, and how to treat it.

Why Do Children Grind Their Teeth?

Teeth grinding describes the act of clenching or grinding of the teeth, often unconsciously and during sleep. Several factors can lead to teeth grinding in children. Some of the most common causes include:

  1. Stress and anxiety: Children can experience stress and anxiety like adults, which may result in teeth grinding.
  2. Sleep issues: Children with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or heavy snoring often also experience sleep bruxism.
  3. Malocclusion: An abnormal bite or misaligned teeth can cause your child’s jaw muscles to work harder, leading to teeth grinding as they try to find a comfortable position.
  4. Hyperactivity: Children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also exhibit teeth grinding.
  5. Medications: Certain medications, especially psychiatric ones, can cause bruxism in children.
  6. Genetic factors: Children are more likely to develop the same habit if a family member grinds their teeth.

Signs Your Child Is Grinding Their Teeth

While teeth grinding can often go unnoticed due to its unconscious nature, there are several signs of bruxism. Being aware of these common symptoms can help detect and treat bruxism early.

  • Look for changes in your child’s teeth, such as chips, flattening, or wear on the biting surfaces.
  • Your child might complain about hot, cold, or sweet foods causing discomfort.
  • Upon waking, your child might complain about pain and discomfort in their ears, face, or jaw muscles.
  • You might notice your child having difficulty sleeping or hear them grinding their teeth at night.
  • Children who grind their teeth sometimes chew on pencils, the ends of their sleeves, or other non-food items.
  • If your child is experiencing jaw pain or difficulty opening and closing their mouth, it could be a sign of teeth grinding.

The Importance of Treating Bruxism

Bruxism in children isn’t just a temporary issue. If left untreated, it can lead to many problems later in life. Here are some potential consequences that can arise from persistent teeth grinding:

  1. Tooth damage: Chronic teeth grinding can lead to physical damage to permanent teeth, such as loose teeth, cracks, and even tooth loss. This damage can require extensive dental work to repair.
  2. Enamel erosion: The pressure from grinding can wear away tooth enamel, exposing the sensitive inner layers and resulting in tooth sensitivity or decay.
  3. Joint disorders: Persistent grinding can lead to disorders of the temporomandibular joints, which connect the jaw to the skull. This can result in neck pain, difficulty chewing, and changes in face shape.
  4. Sleep disturbances: Grinding can disrupt sleep, leading to daytime fatigue, mood changes, and difficulty concentrating.
  5. Gum recession: Consistent pressure from bruxism can also lead to the recession of gums, leading to further tooth sensitivity and the risk of periodontal disease.

If you suspect your child may be grinding their teeth, visit Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry for an evaluation. Read Your Child’s First Visit for tips on preparing your child for the dentist.

How to Treat Teeth Grinding in Children

There are several treatment options and methods to manage bruxism in children:

  1. Mouthguard: A dentist may recommend a special night guard or dental splint that fits over the upper or lower teeth to prevent grinding and damage.
  2. Orthodontic treatment: If malocclusion is the cause of teeth grinding in your kid, braces or other orthodontic treatments may be necessary to correct the problem.
  3. Address anxiety: If stress or anxiety is causing your child to grind their teeth, consider counseling or relaxation techniques like deep breathing and mindfulness.
  4. Sleep hygiene: Keep a consistent bedtime and wake-up time to improve your child’s sleep quality. Treating a sleep disorder could alleviate the bruxism if it is the cause of grinding.
  5. Diet and lifestyle changes: Reducing or avoiding caffeine and certain foods may help relieve symptoms. Regular physical activity also promotes better sleep and may reduce teeth grinding.

Your Pediatric Dentist in Phoenix, AZ

As a parent, you want to keep your child healthy and safe. But if they grind their teeth at night, it can cause long-term issues they won’t be able to avoid on their own. Teeth grinding isn’t just uncomfortable for your child; it can also lead to permanent damage to their teeth, which could require a lifetime of dental work.

Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry is here to help. Dr. Henry Martinez and his knowledgeable team are dedicated to helping your kids stop grinding and keep their smiles healthy. 

If you are searching for a pediatric dentist in Phoenix, call (602) 935-7427 to book an appointment or complete the online booking form. With the right advice, treatments, and resources, you can be confident that your child will smile for years to come!