Grind, grind, grind…
iYou may be familiar with this irritating noise, if your little one happ
ens to be a teeth grinder. Teeth grinding is common in children, or
what is also called bruxism. In fact, three out of ten kids grind or clench their teeth,
usually in response to stress, jaw growth, malocclusion, losing teeth, or other discomforts, such
as allergies. Kids typically outgrow teeth grinding by the time they reach their teenage years.
Most kids in their sleep who grit their teeth have no idea that they
are doing it. In fact, they don’t feel any pain in the jaw, head, ches
t, or shoulder when they wake up in the morning. If it wasn’t for a
parent or sibling to tell them about it, in most situations, the teeth
grinding would have gone unnoticed.
There are children, however, who wake up with jaw pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, and
headaches. Teeth grinding can cause a host of dental complications, from cracked teeth and
receding gums to a misaligned jaw. Our team will tell you that teeth grinding is not something to
take lightly. Teeth grinding can have serious consequences that, if left untreated, can lead to
tooth fractures and damage to the temporomandibular joint, also known as TMJ.
To help your child recover from teeth grinding, the first step is to r
ecognize and diagnose the problem. Usually, signs of teeth grindi
• Grinding noises when your child is sleeping
• Complaints of tightness or pain in the jaw
• Complaints of headaches, earaches, or facial pain
• Complaints of pain when chewing
• Tooth sensitivity
• Chipped, worn down, or loose teeth
The majority of cases of pediatric bruxism do not require any treatment, but you should consult
your children’s dentist. If excessive wear of the teeth (attrition) is present, then a mouth guard
(night guard) may be indicated. The negatives to a mouth guard are the possibility of choking if
the appliance becomes dislodged during sleep and it may interfere with growth of the jaws. The
positive is obvious by preventing wear to the primary dentition.
Many kids are outgrowing bruxism the good news. Grinding decre
ases between 6-
9 years of age and children tend to stop grinding between 9-
12 years of age. Explore this with your medical or adult dentist if y
ou suspect bruxism.
Sucking is a natural reflex and infants and young children may use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers and
other objects on which to suck. It may make them feel secure and happy, or provide a sense of
security at difficult periods. Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may induce sleep.
Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems with
the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. How intensely a child sucks on fingers or
thumbs will determine whether or not dental problems may result. Children who rest their
thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously
suck their thumbs.
Kids will stop sucking their thumb as soon as their permanent fron
t teeth are ready for eruption. Children usually start between two a
nd four years of age. Peer pressure is causing most kids of school
age to leave.
Pacifiers are no substitute for thumb sucking. They can affect the teeth essentially the same way
as sucking fingers and thumbs. However, use of the pacifier can be controlled and modified more
easily than the thumb or finger habit. If you have concerns about thumb sucking or use of a
pacifier, consult your pediatric dentist.
A few suggestions to help your child get through thumb sucking:
• Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure. Focus on
correcting the cause of anxiety, instead of the thumb sucking.
• Children who are sucking for comfort will feel less of a need when their
parents provide comfort.
• Reward children when they refrain from sucking during difficult periods,
such as when being separated from their parents.
• Your pediatric dentist can encourage children to stop sucking and explain
what could happen if they continue.
• If these approaches don’t work, remind the children of their habit by
bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. Your pediatric dentist may
recommend the use of a mouth appliance.