Teeth Grinding/Bruxism

When kids get introduced to their dentist at an early age, they begin a lifetime of healthy dental practices that are often difficult for parents alone to enforce. It all begins with good preventative dentistry. The experienced pediatric dental team at Tiny Smiles Pediatric Dentistry — in Woodbridge, New Jersey, the Lower East Side of Manhattan and Harlem, NY — know how to talk to kids about good oral practices. They reinforce your home teachings and, with regular checkups, ensure no problems interfere with your kids’ healthy dental development.

What Is Bruxism?

Grinding or clenching teeth during the daytime or while sleeping is known as bruxism. It’s a common condition that affects both adults and children. Occasionally clenching the teeth may not cause damage, but when you have a baby grinding teeth or when teens grind teeth, it can lead to dental problems.

Kids grinding teeth should be evaluated by specialists in the field of pediatric dentistry, such as the experts at Tiny Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, who provide a wide range of dental services including:

What Are Signs of Kids Grinding Teeth?

It’s not always obvious when children grind their teeth, especially since in many people, children included, teeth grinding happens during sleep. Parents sometimes hear children grinding their teeth while they’re sleeping. Other signs of kids grinding teeth include:

Worn tooth enamel or excessive tooth decay

Increased tooth sensitivity to hot or cold because of damaged enamel

Increased tooth pain

Loosened teeth

Chipped teeth

Face, jaw or neck pain

Disrupted sleep

Ear aches

Dull headaches that usually start in the temples

Preventative dentistry is the best way to make sure any damage to teeth is caught early. When teeth grinding treatment is initiated before problems progress, you nip the problem in the bud. Your NJ or NYC pediatric dentist recognizes bruxism from signs such as cracks on the outer layer of the tooth and worn enamel.

Why Do Children Grind Their Teeth?

Adults may grind or clench their teeth for stress-related reasons. When teens grind teeth, it may also be related to anxiety, caused by stressors such as overloaded schedules, problems with peers and academic challenges. Other reasons for teens and kids grinding teeth include:

  • An abnormal bite, such as overbite or underbite
  • Missing or crooked teeth
  • Crowded teeth
  • Irregularly shaped teeth
  • Breathing problems from allergies or a stuffy nose

Sleep bruxism sometimes runs in families and may be related to genetics. Bruxism is also related to some health conditions that affect children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, sleep apnea and night terrors.

Should I Worry About Baby Grinding Teeth?

Bruxism affects people of all ages, including babies. Baby’s first teeth create new sensations, and grinding teeth is sometimes a way of coping with the discomfort of erupting teeth. Things you can do to relieve the discomfort of teething include:

  • Cold rubber teething toys
  • Soft teething ring
  • Rubbing your baby’s gums
  • Making baby’s first dental visit soon after the very first tooth erupts

Many children outgrow bruxism when they lose their baby teeth, and treatment of teeth grinding isn’t usually needed until the baby teeth have been lost. If you feel concerned about a baby grinding teeth, check with an experienced pediatric dentist.

What Are Some Complications of Bruxism?

While young children may stop grinding their teeth once erupting teeth come in, when older children or teens continue to clench their jaw or grind their teeth, they may harm their permanent teeth. Possible complications of bruxism include:

  • Tension headaches
  • Damage to teeth, jaw or crowns
  • Lost teeth or fillings
  • Receding gums

The temporomandibular joints connect the jawbone to the skull. The joint provides the movement needed to open and close the mouth. Habitual clenching of the jaw or grinding of the teeth can cause problems with these joints or nearby muscles. This is known as temporomandibular disorders (TMJ) and is characterized by aching pain in the muscles and joints of the jaw, pain while chewing and a clicking or popping sound in the jaw.

What Are Some Teeth Grinding Treatment Options?

Mild bruxism may not need to be treated, but when teeth grinding or clenching is leading to complications, such as tooth damage or headaches, it’s time to explore teeth grinding treatment options. Your pediatric dentist may recommend treatments to reduce teeth grinding that include:

  • Mouth guards. While some mouth guards are sold over-the-counter, the most effective choices for treating bruxism are custom-made through your pediatric dentist. These dental appliances are designed to keep teeth separated and to absorb the force of biting to prevent further damage.
  • Orthodontic care. Braces or Invisalign may be recommended if teeth grinding is related to bite problems or because the teeth and jaw are misaligned.

If grinding teeth is related to stress, learning different forms of stress management may be helpful. Parents may be able to help younger children calm down before bedtime with relaxing habits, such as a story and a warm bath. If your child or teenager complains of tooth or jaw pain, contact Tiny Smiles Pediatric Dentistry — in Woodbridge, NJ, Harlem, NY or the Lower East Side in Manhattan — with any concerns about kids grinding teeth or for treatment or prevention of common dental problems.

Skip to content