Parents are worried about children who make this sound.  You creep into their room at night to check and make sure they are fast asleep and instead of hearing the soft calm sounds of restful sleep you hear grinding  sounds coming from their jaws.  THIS CAN’T BE GOOD.  Well, your child is experiencing something referred to as “Bruxism”, more commonly known as “teeth grinding”, and it affects about 30% of kids and even infants who will uncontrollably do it in their sleep.

What Is Bruxism and what does it mean if my child demonstrates this behaviour?

First of all, tooth grinding is a very common occurrence.  Known factors that cause children to do this are:

  • Tension or anxiety, emotional distress. Every child has normal emotional distress. Sometimes bruxism or tooth grinding is one way they can resolve this stress
  • Feeling pain, earaches or teething.
  • Malocclusions which is medical speak for teeth that aren’t lined up properly.  This could be transient as their teeth change from baby teeth to adult teeth, or it could be permanent.
  • Breathing issues as common as a stuffed nose from a cold can cause a child to grind their teeth, also allergies can cause this behaviour.
  • Genes.  You might have been a grinder yourself and now your kid does it too!
  • Sleep  Disorders, like Sleep apnea is quite common in children

Some of these causes are preventable and  treatable. Some of them are not.

Most times, children outgrow the behaviour, often times by age 6. However, it’s still a good idea to effect some changes to help prevent the behaviour and any potential damage that can be caused by it.  For example, you may want to consider getting a night guard to help prevent the damage that grinding can cause to the enamel of the child’s permanent teeth.

Some potential problems that tooth grinding can cause:

Chipping and flattening teeth:  If your child outgrows tooth grinding before the adult teeth grow in, then don’t fret.  This is not a biggie.  But what if the behaviour persists?  In these cases, tooth grinding can absolutely contribute to more severe consequences such as chipping the teeth or damaging the enamel or even breaking the teeth.  All of these are of course can be fixed, but prevention is a much better approach. Why incur the costs when they can be avoided?

Facial and jaw pain:  We in fact have many patients who complain of jaw pain, or TMJ (temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disease).  Grinding can absolutely contribute to this problem, and if your child doesn’t grow out of the behaviour they can develop this more severe issue.  There are several ways to help with an Orthodontic solution, including bite correction.  Many people suffer from TMJ and don’t know that it can be corrected.  Dr. Parlett has extensive experience treating those who suffer from TMD/TMJ.

Just plain bad sleeping patterns: A good nights rest is key to avoiding many medical issues. Tooth grinding can be a symptom of a much bigger problem. Bruxism is symptomatic for some sleep disorders. Sleep is an essential factor in your child’s healthy growth.  Just because your child MAY outgrow tooth grinding, should not stop you from taking steps now.  The subject of proper sleeping patterns alone is an excellent reason to take preventive measures as research has shown that bad sleep can lead to many problems.

So now what?  What do I do?

If your child grinds their teeth, we recommend you make an appointment to talk with us. So that we can assess if any damage has been done, correct it, or at the very least mitigate any further damage.  It could be as simple as prescribing a mouth guard.  If the behaviour has been persisting longer and more damage has occurred, we will be able to make that assessment and determine the right treatment for your child.