Why do children grind their teeth?

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, refers to excessive grinding of the teeth and/or excessive clenching of the jaw, and is common in children. This can occur during the day or night. The first indication is the noise created by your child grinding on their teeth during sleep. Or, you may notice wear (teeth getting shorter) to your child’s dentition. Although teeth grinding is often the result of stress in adults, the same is not always true with children.

There are a range of psychological, physiological, and physical factors which can be the reason behind bruxism in children.

  1. The grinding of teeth helps the baby to explore what their new teeth sound and feel like. For them, having teeth is a new feeling, and this grinding is generally seen when the baby is around 8 to 12 months old. When babies are cutting their first teeth they sometimes grind them to ease sore gums. Usually babies outgrow this habit, but until they do so, giving the baby a cold teething ring to chew on will help mitigate the problem.
  2. Some children grind their teeth to relieve ear ache pain.
  3. Stress and anxiety can be a cause of bruxism in older infants and children. Exam periods, relocating to new schools, nightmares, new siblings being born, arguments with siblings or parents, even weaning from breastfeeding, these experiences and more can cause anxiety in children.
  4. Imperfect positioning of the teeth when the jaws are closed also promotes teeth grinding. This can be due to abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth, or jaw misalignment. While baby teeth are erupting, becoming loose and being replaced by permanent teeth your child may have an unstable bite. Grinding may be merely the jaw trying to find a comfortable position.
  1. Poor oral hygiene can be a root cause of bruxism also. Gum inflammation can lead to grinding and occurs predominantly in children who do not brush their teeth.
  2. Commonly prescribed medications such as antidepressants may also contribute to tooth grinding in children and teenagers. Amphetamines used to treat ADHD may also be associated with tooth grinding. If the onset of bruxism is sudden, evaluate the medications the child is taking. A switch to an alternate brand might be necessary.
  3. Stomach acid reflux into the oesophagus is another known cause of bruxism in children.
  4. Children with brain injuries and certain developmental disorders (eg, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and epilepsy) may be at particular risk of grinding.
  5. Tooth grinding is common in children who snore and/or breathe through their mouths.
  6. There has been a connection made between teeth grinding and enlarged tonsils which is strongly linked to upper airway obstruction. Removing the tonsils and adenoids has been shown to lessen teeth grinding in some children.

Is Tooth Grinding in children a normal part of my child’s growth & development?

Tooth grinding is actually a very common habit among children, particularly those under the age of 11. The good news is that, because your child’s teeth and jaws change and grow so quickly, teeth grinding is not usually a damaging habit that requires treatment and most outgrow it by adolescence.

It may be a cause for concern when the tooth grinding causes severe tooth wear, pain or trouble sleeping. A mouthguard, a thin protective mouthpiece moulded to the child’s teeth that acts as a barrier between the opposing sets, may be prescribed. This can take care of the major problem. If however, other signs and symptoms are observed such as emotional or psychological problems, upper airway obstruction, chronic snoring, enlarged adenoids, pain, or wear of permanent teeth, further evaluation may be necessary.

If you’re concerned about your child’s Teeth Grinding, Bruxism, Teeth Clenching or Occlusal
Splint/Nightguard contact us at Specialist Kids Dentist or visit our offices in Liverpool or Summer Hill..