Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 04:53 am
Have you noticed that your child clenches his teeth at night or even during the day? Do you hear a crunching or grinding sound coming from their mouth while you sleep? If so, you could be witnessing a common but often overlooked problem in children: bruxism. In this article, we’ll explore children who grind their teeth in-depth: what it is, why it occurs, and how parents can recognize its signs and take steps to help their children overcome this dental concern.
Table of Contents
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism, often referred to as the involuntary act of grinding or clenching the teeth, is a phenomenon that affects both adults and children. Although it is more commonly associated with stress and tension in adults, little ones can also experience it.
A study carried out in 2022 estimated that between 15.9% and 19.4% of children in the world could suffer from bruxism. However, these figures may be higher or lower depending on the geographic location. The disorder can have significant effects on children’s oral health, as well as their general well-being.
Is grinding of baby teeth a cause for concern?
Tooth grinding in babies is usually common during the first stages of teething, associated with discomfort from the emergence of the first teeth. However, if this behavior persists, it may be a case of bruxism, which may reflect other general and psychological health problems.
Another thing to be concerned about is how teeth grinding makes them more susceptible to cavities, we have a separate guide right here where we discuss the connection of cavities and teeth grinding.
Causes of grinding of baby teeth
Why does a child grind his teeth? The origin of bruxism in children is multifactorial and usually the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In addition, it has been shown that an imbalance in the production of some neurotransmitters (substances that activate the central nervous system), such as dopamine and serotonin, can play a key role in the activation of chewing muscles.
Thus, multiple factors can contribute to the development of bruxism in children, including:
1. Biological factors:
- Respiratory diseases
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Sleep disturbances
2. Psychosocial factors:
- Authoritarian parenting patterns
- Sudden or harmful changes in lifestyle
3. Lifestyle factors:
- Consumption of added sugars
- Prolonged screen use times
Signs and symptoms of children who grind their teeth
It is important to be attentive to the signs and symptoms of dental grinding to provide timely and effective treatment. The most common are:
- Jaw clenching
- Rechinamiento dental
- Nocturnal squeaking sounds coming from the mouth
- Jaw pain
- Teeth with worn edges
- Ear pain or headache
Treatment for the grinding of baby teeth
Bruxism often disappears with the change of teeth and no additional treatments are required. However, parents should be alert to identify signs of bruxism in children with permanent teeth, as they could wear them down and develop problems with the temporomandibular joint.
Because bruxism has a multifactorial origin, treatment usually involves a multidisciplinary approach, including various approaches. Although treating the signs and symptoms of bruxism is important, the treatment of grinding in baby teeth must be focused on treating its origin to ensure lasting results and positive effects on the child’s overall health. Treatment of childhood bruxism may involve:
Psychotherapy: It is usually focused on performing relaxation and stress management exercises, along with education, to recognize tension in the muscles.
1. Maxillary orthopedic treatments: Maxillary orthopedic appliances are usually used when bruxism is generated by an airway obstruction related to a narrow jaw.
2. Treatment of other medical problems: Often, treating problems such as sleep disturbances, gastroesophageal reflux, or respiratory diseases can help treat childhood bruxism.
3. Dental treatment: Reconstructing the dental structure lost through teeth grinding is important, but it must be carried out once the etiological factors are controlled.
4. Pharmacological treatment: Although the use of drugs to treat childhood bruxism is not common, the use of hydroxyzine and other medications prescribed for this purpose has been reported. It is important to mention that these should be used under medical prescription and only in severe cases, where treatments based on other approaches are not sufficient.
During the teething stage in babies, bruxism may not represent a problem since, in many cases, it disappears without treatment and does not usually engender complications. However, if this problem persists at the time of the eruption of the permanent teeth, it is favorable to carry out a multidisciplinary approach, based on a correct comprehensive diagnosis.
Treatment should be as least invasive as possible, starting with psycho-behavioral treatment, reserving the use of drugs only for very complex cases. If you are interested to learn more about the effective bruxism treatments, click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
When children make that noise by rubbing their teeth, tooth enamel can suffer erosion. This makes them more vulnerable to future oral complications if the issue is not addressed. Some of the consequences may include increased sensitivity to foods and liquids at extreme temperatures. Additionally, it is common for children who perform the act of grinding to report discomfort in the jaw area.
Multiple factors can lead children to grind their teeth. Some reasons include poor dental alignment, physical suffering such as earaches or discomfort associated with the emergence of new teeth, as well as emotional factors such as stress due to an upcoming test or changes in your daily routine.
Consider relaxation techniques: Implementing relaxation activities could reduce the child’s tension and nervousness before he goes to bed. You can try meditation sessions or pre-sleep stretching routines. Promote physical exercise: If your child’s teeth grinding is due to hyperactivity, ensuring that he or she has an adequate level of physical activity during the day, could help mitigate the problem.
There is a genetic inheritance: studies have indicated that nocturnal bruxism has a genetic factor and could be a heritable condition. What’s more, approximately 50% of individuals who experience bruxism during sleep have a close relative who also suffers from this problem.
In both adults and children, teeth grinding can occur during sleep without the person being fully aware of it. Although bruxism is not inherently harmful, the continued act of grinding or clenching the teeth can lead to jaw discomfort and long-term dental deterioration.
If you have any oral health-related questions for your family at home, our dentists at Channel Island Family Dental Office will be happy to guide you through all your preventive and treatment-related activities. Feel free to call and reserve your appointment today at our dental office in Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Paula, Newbury Park, and Port Hueneme.
- An overview of teeth grinding (bruxism). (s/f). WebMD. (Jul 29,2021) https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/teeth-grinding-bruxism
- Kingshott, R. (May 15, 2008). Children who grind their teeth are more likely to have problems in school, be withdrawn from others. American Academy of Sleep Medicine – Association for Sleep Clinicians and Researchers; American Academy of Sleep Medicine.https://aasm.org/children-who-grind-their-teeth-are-more-likely-to-have-problems-in-school-be-withdrawn-from-others/
- Bruxism (teeth grinding). (Aug 10, 2017). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bruxism/symptoms-causes/syc-20356095
- Nall, R., MSN, & CRNA. (Jan 12, 2016). Toddler teeth grinding: What’s causing this? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/toddler-teeth-grinding
- Bulanda, S., Ilczuk-Rypuła, D., Nitecka-Buchta, A., Nowak, Z., Baron, S., & Postek-Stefańska, L. (2021). Sleep bruxism in children: Etiology, diagnosis, and treatment—A literature review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(18), 9544. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18189544
- Restrepo-Serna, C., & Winocur, E. (2023). Sleep bruxism in children, from evidence to the clinic. A systematic review. Frontiers in oral health, 4. https://doi.org/10.3389/froh.2023.1166091
- Marcin, A. (Jan 19,2016). Baby grinding teeth: What parents should do. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/baby-teeth-grinding