Moms are worried about children who make this sound. You creep into their room at night to check and make sure they are fast asleep and instead of hearing the soft calm sounds of restful sleep you hear grinding and crunching and popping sounds coming from their jaws. THIS CAN’T BE GOOD. Well, your child suffers from what’s known as Bruxism, more commonly referred to as teeth grinding, and it affects about 30% of babies and children who do it in their sleep.

Watch this random Youtube clip taken by a parent.  This child, while being cute is in the stages of developing a bad habit.  Hear those clicks and crunchy sounds she makes?

So What Is Bruxism and what does it mean?

First of all, don’t panic, teeth grinding is a very common occurrence. The known contributing factors that cause a child to grind their teeth are:

1) Feelings of tension or anxiety
2) Pain, often times from earaches or teething.
3) Malocclusions which is medical speak for teeth that aren’t lined up properly. This could be transient as their teeth change from baby teeth to adult teeth, or it could be permanent.
4) Breathing issues as common as a stuffed nose from a cold can cause a child to grind their teeth, also allergies can cause this behaviour.
5) Genes. You might have been a grinder yourself and now your kid does it too!
6) Talking in their sleep. Research has shown children who talk in their sleep are more likely to grind their teeth.

Some of these causes are preventable and treatable. Some of them are not.  In most cases, children outgrow their bruxism, usually by the age of 6. But that doesn’t mean that you should not consider making some changes to help prevent the behaviour and any potential damage that can be caused by it. For example, you may want to consider getting a night guard to help prevent the damage that grinding can cause to a child’s teeth or enamel.

Some potential problems that tooth grinding can cause:

Chipping and flattening teeth: If your child outgrows tooth grinding before the adult teeth grow in, then don’t fret. This is not a biggie. But what if the behaviour persists? Well in these cases, tooth grinding can absolutely contribute to more severe consequences such as chipping the teeth or damaging the enamel or even breaking the teeth. All of these are of course fixable at your dentists office, but why incur the costs when they can be avoided?

Facial and jaw pain: As an Orthodontist, I actually get patients in all the time who complain of jaw pain, or TMJ ( temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disease). Grinding can absolutely contribute to this problem, and if your child doesn’t grow out of the behaviour they can develop this more severe issue. There are several ways to help with an Orthodontic solution, including bite correction. Many people suffer from TMJ and don’t know that it can be corrected with the help of your certified orthodontist. If you or someone you know is affected by this, give the office a call to set up a free consultation.

Just plain bad sleeping patterns: A good nights rest is key to avoiding many medical issues. Tooth grinding can absolutely interrupt this essential factor in a childs healthy growth and the pressures exerted on the teeth and jaw can make it much harder for children to get the proper sleep they so critically need. Just because your child MAY outgrow tooth grinding, should not stop you from taking steps now. The subject of proper sleeping patterns alone is an excellent reason to take preventive measures as research has shown that bad sleep can lead to many problems. All avoidable with just some proper shut eye.

So now what? What do I do?

If your child grinds their teeth, we recommend you make an appointment to talk with us. Consultations are complimentary and we are able to assess whether any damage has occurred and whether an orthodontic solution is the ticket. It could be as simple as prescribing a mouth guard. If the behaviour has been persisting longer and more damage has occurred, we will be able to make that assessment and determine the right treatment for your child.

Children should be seen by an orthodontist by age 7 in any case to help assess whether any of these damaging behaviours exist, or if any tooth alignment or jaw related problems need correcting or monitoring. As with everything, it is always better to take preventive measures, rather than wait for the problem to get worse with neglect.

Happy Smiles,

Dr. Pourang Rahimi