Why Does My Child Grind Her Teeth?

Many parents ask us: what’s up with my child grinding her teeth in her sleep? Tooth-grinding can make parents worry, but the problem is more common than most people think.

About Bruxism

Bruxism is the technical term for teeth-grinding. Short-term, bruxism can cause pain and stress in the jaw and neck. It can even contribute to headaches. Long-term, bruxism causes undue stress on our teeth. The constant grinding can wear down teeth, thin the strong enamel layer, and even lead to cracks.

Bruxism often affects adults while they sleep, most commonly when there is misalignment in the jaw, or when someone is feeling especially stressed. However, for children, bruxism is much more prevalent, and for different reasons.

Why Children Grind Teeth

20-30% of children grind their teeth at night, but the vast majority of them outgrow it by age 11. It’s still unsure exactly what the cause is, but most professionals hypothesize four major reasons.

First, it can be a reaction to pain and discomfort at night, much like one might rub a sore muscle.

Secondly, it might be a reaction to stress, as it is in adults.

Thirdly, it’s a result of children adjusting to a new alignment in their teeth and jaw. During the developmental years, children are constantly growing in new teeth, and losing baby teeth. As the mouth adjusts to each new situation, children might grind their teeth unconsciously.

Fourth, there’s a high correlation between sleep bruxism and upper airway constriction. Unconsciously pulling the jaw forward to open the airway, children with airway constriction also tend to breathe through the mouth.

What to Do

As mentioned above, most children grow out of night bruxism before they become teenagers, and they seldom suffer any long-term effects from grinding teeth. In fact, most of the time the biggest problem with children grinding their teeth is that it drives their parents crazy. However, it’s still important to let us know about the issue so that we can watch for signs that bruxism is becoming a problem. We can monitor your child’s bite and let you know if early orthodontic intervention is necessary for your child’s long term oral health.

Here at Surprise Dental, we love working with kids and their teeth! If you ever have any questions about your child’s health, give us a call.

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