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My Child Grinds Their Teeth…

by | Jan 26, 2015

Grinding Teeth

Grinding Teeth

Shelby Pediatric Dentistry is starting a new blog! In this blog, we will feature news in the world of pediatric dentistry and answer questions frequently asked by parents. If you have any questions for Dr. Baxter, please post them on our Facebook page or in the blog comments below.

Frequently asked question:

Is it ok that my child grinds his / her teeth?

Our parents ask us many variations of this question, but the answers are all the same. Often, a parent notices their child grinding his or her teeth at night while sleeping. This can sound similar to “nails on a chalkboard” and can be disruptive to sleep habits for the parent or the child. Typically, nighttime grinding will cause no real harm to the child but can cause sleepless nights for the parent if they are co-sleeping or in the same room. Daytime grinding is an easier habit to break, but it can still be difficult to change for the young child who doesn’t even realize he is doing it.

How can you know if your child is grinding his or her teeth? If you hear a noise at night like two teeth rubbing together, that would be your biggest clue! If the baby teeth look very worn or are flat on top, then the chances are good that you have a grinder. There could also be tenderness or tightness in the jaw after waking up from sleep.

Some studies have noted that children with enlarged tonsils have disruptive sleep habits, wake frequently from sleep, and grind their teeth. These same studies have also noted a higher incidence of ADD/ADHD in these children. If your child does grind their teeth significantly at night, have your pediatrician or pediatric dentist check their teeth for wear, and check their tonsils to see if they are enlarged. This may be something to discuss with your pediatrician if your child does have larger than normal tonsils.

So what should you do if your child is grinding his or her teeth? First, try to determine when it is happening and if there are any triggers (food, stress, etc.). Some people notice increased tooth grinding with gluten or dairy, or with increased stress from school, peers, or changing home situations. Next, alert your dentist at your next dental health visit to see if it is causing any real harm to the teeth. Most of the time, there is no need to intervene, and the child will grow out of it. Once the child has all of his or her permanent teeth (around age 12), a dentist can make a night guard for the child to use at nighttime so they grind the plastic instead of their teeth. Before all the permanent teeth erupt, short of providing some kind of stress reduction, or identifying triggers, the only treatment would be to provide the child with medication to stop the grinding. In almost all cases, this would not be recommended unless the child had other special needs and was grinding all of the time. If the teeth are severely worn, a filling or crowns may be needed, and sometimes a baby tooth root canal would be needed if the nerve of the tooth is exposed.

The good news is that most kids outgrow tooth grinding by age 12, and it is significantly less by age 6-9.