Teeth Grinding in a Child


When your child won’t stop grinding his teeth…


Teeth grinding or bruxism in children is an issue that is not addressed very often because it is a condition that is usually associated with stressed or tired adults. However, children certainly experience bruxism although how and why this condition occurs among little ones, differs slightly compared to adults.

Children usually experience bruxism when they are teething. According to Dr. Wong Ruen Yuan of the Smile Link Dental Group, “An estimated 15 to 33% of children grind their teeth regularly. This occurs when they develop their desidus (milk) teeth at six to eight months old and again at six years old when they start to develop their permanent teeth.” Dr. Wong adds, “At complete eruption, maybe 12 years old, the habit will usually stop.”


Stressed or teething?

The main difference between adult bruxism and teeth grinding in children according to Dr. Wong is that, “Adult teeth grinding is almost always because of pressure, stress and anxiety. Bad sleep quality can also contribute to teeth grinding. 80% of night-time teeth grinding occurs subconsciously.” In children however, it is usually the growth of new or permanent teeth that leads to grinding their teeth.

However, a child can also be stressed which can trigger teeth grinding. Dr. Wong states, “Kids can grind their teeth because of stress too. Sometimes, parents may stress their children over school and exams. It is also possible for the child to carry on grinding their teeth well into adulthood.” Another thing that can add stress on a child is a new addition to the family such as a new baby sister or brother or a change in routine such as having a new teacher at school.

You know it’s time to take your child to the dentist when he or she complains of soreness in their jaw or face or pain when they chew food. If you hear the sound of grinding when your child sleeps, it is a good indicator that your child is grinding his teeth.


No more ice-cream

If your child regularly grinds his teeth, they can become worn down. Teeth that are worn down will be sensitive to temperatures and this will cause all sorts of problems. For instance, your child won’t be able to enjoy his ice cream or cold beverages because of sharp, shooting pains.

Dr. Wong adds, “They may suffer from a sore jaw in the morning, pain in the facial muscles, or even temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) in serious cases.” TMJ is cluster of conditions that affects the temporomandibular joint which are small joints that connect the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull. If your child still sleeps with you and your partner, you may experience sleep disruption because of the noise.


A simple solution

Usually a simple trip to the dentist will get Junior to leave his teeth-grinding days in the past and get back on the road to wellness. Dr. Wong says, “In serious cases such as TMJ and headaches, a mouth guard is prescribed. This mouth guard is worn at night to prevent grinding.” These mouth guards are made out of soft acrylic, which prevents the upper and lower teeth from grinding together to help prevent further damage. He also advises that during the day, parents should remind their child not to clench their jaw or grind their teeth.

The mouth guards look like the ones used in contact sports. The dentist will take a mould of your child’s teeth so the guard will fit perfectly. The reason why the guard should be used only at night is that bruxism happens subconsciously which is harder to control. During the day, when the child is awake, mum or dad can correct his behaviour with a gentle reminder.

According to Dr. Wong, “Muscle relaxants are only prescribed in very serious cases. We will usually investigate the cause of the stress and work to reduce it in order to help the child.”

He urges parents to lighten the child’s daily responsibilities. “Give them a wonderful childhood without unnecessary courses or classes. Let them follow their interests.”


Growing that toothy smile

For younger children (six months and above) whose milk teeth are coming in, get teething rings for them to chew on. This will help stop them from grinding their teeth.

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