The sound of grinding teeth is like nails down a blackboard to some people, but what if the person doing the grinding is your child? Teeth grinding is fairly common in children over the age of one and in most cases it is a short lived habit which fades away by age six.
Teeth grinding and clenching is officially known as ‘Bruxism’ and it most commonly happens at night when your child is asleep. Although it can be alarming for parents to hear, in most cases it shouldn't cause any permanent damage to teeth. In some cases teeth grinding can be a sign of a medical or psychological issue, so it may be worth checking out further.
What Causes Teeth Grinding In Children?
Although no single cause has been identified, teeth grinding has been linked to a number of potential issues. Some of the most common causes of teeth grinding in toddlers and older children include:
- Dental issues from poor alignment of the top and bottom teeth
- Medical problems (teeth grinding has been linked to a number of different medical issues including dehydration, allergies and nutritional deficiencies)
- Pain from an ear infection or other illness
- Teething pain
- Stress and anxiety (this can be due to changes like moving house, the birth of a sibling, changes in routine or other forms of stress)
Teeth grinding isn't usually considered a serious problem and most children grow out of it before their permanent teeth come in. However teeth grinding can disrupt your child's sleep and cause them to wake more frequently overnight. It can also cause headaches or jaw pain which can make him or her uncomfortable, especially at nighttime.
Can I Treat Teeth Grinding?
If you are worried about the effect that teeth grinding might have on your child's teeth, it is worth taking them to the dentist to check for any signs of damage, especially to permanent teeth. If necessary, your dentist can prescribe a mouth guard for your child to wear at night to prevent long term damage.
If you can establish the cause of the teeth grinding you may be able to help alleviate it. If you suspect that teething pain may be the cause (see our teething symptoms article), try providing your toddler with other forms of pain relief before bedtime.
It is always worth taking your child to a doctor or paediatrician if you suspect they may have nutritional deficiencies or allergies or any other underlying health issues.
For stress related teeth grinding, try talking to your child about any fears or anxieties they may have. If you don't already have a bedtime routine, try to make the time before they go to sleep as relaxing and calming as possible. A nice warm bath, cuddle time, screen free time (at least an hour before bed) and reading together can help your little one to relax.
Teeth grinding isn't usually a major issue for toddlers and older children, but it can be a sign of other problems, including stress and anxiety, so it's well worth keeping an eye on. The the main thing to remember is that most children grow out of their teeth grinding habit before they get old enough for it to cause any serious damage.