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Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

What is teeth grinding?

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, happens when a child clenches his teeth and grinds them together.

What is the cause?

A number of things may cause teeth grinding. For example:

  • It may happen because a child's top and bottom teeth do not fit together comfortably.
  • It may be a sign of a tooth problem. The child may grind his teeth to make the teeth feel better. Grinding puts pressure on the area around an inflamed tooth which may temporarily lessen the pain.
  • Children may grind their teeth because they feel tense, fearful, or angry.

Teeth grinding is most common in children around the ages of 5 and 6, but it can happen at any age. It can occur at any time, especially if a child is feeling stressed. It may become a habit.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms may include:

  • Teeth grinding or clenching, which may be loud enough for others to hear
  • Worn teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Jaw pain, earache, or tightness in jaw muscles
  • Headache

Most children grind their teeth only at night. If a child is feeling very stressed, he may grind his teeth during the daytime.

Will the grinding hurt my child's teeth?

Usually the grinding doesn’t hurt the teeth. The surface of baby teeth can get worn without being painful or causing other problems. Teeth that are very worn down may cause dental problems, such as tooth infections, or it may get hard for your child to chew food properly.

How can I help my child?

Keep appointments for routine dental checkups. If your child has pain or you see wear on the teeth, get a checkup by a dentist who specializes in children. Most children will stop teeth grinding on their own without the need for special treatments. However, if help is needed, dentists can polish the teeth to make them fit together more comfortably. They can make a special mouth guard to keep your child from wearing away the teeth. The mouth guard is usually worn at night.

It may be a good idea to help a child talk about things that may be causing tension, fear, or anger. You can do this as part of the bedtime routine. For example, when your child is telling you about his day, ask how those events made him feel. While this may or may not help with the child’s teeth grinding, it lets your child know that you care about how he feels. It’s probably best not to draw attention to the grinding itself.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-09-17
Last reviewed: 2012-03-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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