Teeth grinding is actually quite common in children. It is known as bruxism in adults. According to The Journal of Dentistry for Children, 38% of children grind their tooth – that’s almost 4 out of 10 kids. The good thing is that the habit is usually not a problem for their teeth and most children stop grinding when the permanent front teeth begin to erupt.
Why do children grind their teeth?
There can be many reasons for grinding. Sometimes it can be to relieve the pain of teething or an earache. If they do seem to be having trouble with any pain, giving them children’s pain medication, such as Paracetamol to help relieve the inflammation and lessen the grinding. It can also be because their teeth are not aligned properly and they are having trouble biting, which is often relieved once the adult teeth begin erupting. The grinding may also be stress related, perhaps a test coming up, a new teacher, or problem with friends. In these cases its helpful to help the child wind down before going to bed by taking a soothing bath or reading a book to ease them into sleep.
Besides these preventative measures there is not much else that can be done. An appliance, such as a night guards are rarely used on a child due to the rapid changes that are happening in the mouth. A night guard could impede and disrupt the growth pattern of the jaw and face and lead to more serious complications for the child. A new night guard would have to be made almost monthly. If the child is still grinding when they have fully matured dentally, the dentist will usually fit a mouth guard at that time.
Luckily, very rarely is grinding a severe enough issue that any treatment is needed. However for some children the grinding is more severe and they grind much of the tooth away were the pulp and nerve of the tooth are almost exposed. In that case we will do fillings on the top surface to protect the nerves of the tooth, or very rarely use a night guard.
If your child is having facial muscle aches or soreness of the jaw and/or teeth, bring them into the dentist to have a check-up. Otherwise teeth grinding in children rarely cause any problems except maybe for the ones who have to endure the sound.
By Dr Sara Ok , Dental Surgeon, T32 Dental Centre
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine