Teeth grinding in children isn’t uncommon, especially if your child is experiencing stress or anxiety.
And while teeth grinding during the day is something parents can help their children manage, children may not be aware they grind their teeth at night unless they share a room or until their teeth start to show wear and tear from grinding.
But is grinding your teeth at night bad for your child, does it require a pediatric dentist, and what can you do to stop it?
7 Steps to Stop a Child from Grinding Their Teeth at Night
There are various ways you can manage your child’s teeth grinding at night. These include:
- Lower your child’s stress, especially right before bedtime
- Try stretching exercises and a massage to relax the muscles
- Ensure your child drinks plenty of water
- Have your dentist monitor your child’s teeth
- Ask your dentist about a mouth guard
- Tell your child not to chew on pencils or pens or anything that isn’t food
- Make sure your child avoids chewing gum
1. Lower Your Child’s Stress, Especially Right Before Bedtime
If grinding your teeth at night is bad for your child, stress and anxiety aren’t much better. One thing you can do to reduce the risk of teeth grinding at night in your child is help them manage their stress.
This can be highly beneficial, especially before bed. Build a relaxing evening routine designed to help your child unwind.
Activities might include:
- Reading aloud
- Hair brushing
- Listening to music
You can also help by noticing and commenting on things you see causing stress in your child. This gives them an adult they trust to talk to. Additionally, it helps children learn to communicate how they feel.
2. Try Stretching Exercises and a Massage to Relax the Muscle
Because teeth grinding at night can happen because of a tight or tense jaw, using simple exercises to relax the jaw muscles can also reduce the risk of teeth grinding at night in children.
With your child standing in front of a mirror, have them gently open and close the mouth. Children should feel the straight-up-and-down motion of the jaw when they press the backs of their hands to their cheeks.
Doing this for ten minutes before bed should relax the jaw and reduce the chances of your child grinding their teeth at night.
3. Ensure Your Child Drinks Plenty of Water
Research links dehydration with teeth grinding in children. Ensure your child drinks plenty of water throughout the day. Reducing consumption of caffeinated beverages like soda can also help prevent teeth grinding at night.
4. Have Your Dentist Monitor Your Child’s Teeth
Children that grind their teeth at night may suffer pain and discomfort as a result. If you notice increased jaw or tooth sensitivity in your child, have your dentist monitor your child’s teeth. They’ll be able to assess the impact of teeth grinding on your child’s teeth and treat it accordingly.
5. Ask Your Dentist About a Mouth Guard
Wearing mouth guards cushions the teeth and alleviates the pressure that teeth grinding
places on gums and teeth. It also reduces the risk of wear on teeth and tooth enamel as a result of teeth grinding.
For the best outcome, obtain a nightguard through your dentist to ensure the guard fits your child’s teeth.
6. Tell Your Child Not to Chew on Pencils or Pens or Anything That Isn’t Food
Another way to cultivate good jaw habits is to avoid activities that might lead to teeth grinding, such as:
- Biting lips
- Chewing inside of cheek
- Chewing on pens
Instead, encourage your child to keep their jaw relaxed with their tongue against the roof of the mouth. There should also be space between the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is comfortably resting.
7. Make Sure Your Child Avoids Chewing Gum
If you want to reduce teeth grinding in children, discourage chewing gum. The repetitive chewing increases muscle tension and acclimates the mouth to chewing. This increases the likelihood of your child grinding their teeth at night.
How to Know if My Child is Grinding Their Teeth?
Typically, children are unaware they grind their teeth unless they sleep with a sibling or experience tooth sensitivity as a result of the tooth grinding.
That makes it incumbent on parents to notice when their children are grinding their teeth at night.
Signs your child grinds their teeth at night include:
- Worn enamel
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Tired, tight, or tense jaw muscles
- Soreness in jaw, neck, or face
- Sleep disruption
- Sensation like earache as a result of jaw discomfort
Why is Teeth Grinding Harmful?
Although on paper teeth grinding at night may sound innocuous, left untreated, it can lead to dental problems. Teeth grinding at night may cause:
- Flattened or fractured teeth
- Jaw disorders
How severe the problems your child experiences from grinding their teeth at night depends on the severity and frequency of the teeth grinding.
How Long Does Teeth Grinding Last?
There are two peak times in their lives when children are most likely to grind their teeth at night:
- As their baby teeth come in
- When their adult teeth come in
In most cases, the teeth grinding results from discomfort caused by the emerging teeth, and children outgrow it once their teeth have settled.
Most parents notice teeth grinding in children between the ages of three and six, after which it stops.
Can Teeth Grinding Be Prevented?
Preschool-age children rarely need intervention when it comes to grinding their teeth at night. One of the best solutions is to give them a teething toy or rings so they can gnaw on something more substantial than their own teeth.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, either. A frozen washcloth can be an ideal protective solution for young children that grind their teeth.
However, older children may need to take more serious precautions. Having your dentist monitor your child’s teeth can help reduce teeth grinding. Likewise, getting your child to wear a mouthguard lowers the risk of teeth grinding at night.
If your child is teeth grinding (bruxism) at night, it’s not an immediate cause for concern. Young children especially grow out of the habit.
However, long-term teeth grinding can be detrimental for your child’s teeth, and left untreated, can cause:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Jaw pain
- Exposed nerves
If your child starts exhibiting symptoms of tooth grinding, call your dentist or get in touch. We’ll be happy to help. We can offer advice and treatment on the best way to tackle your child’s teeth grinding and alleviate the pressure and pain it may be causing.
Evelyn Lahiji, Children’s Dental FunZone Executive Director, joined the company in 2007 with her extensive knowledge of the dental field due to years of working in every position at multiple dental offices. Under her leadership, 12 additional offices opened and quickly became successful. Evelyn works hard to ensure all operations are running smoothly both in the offices and at home raising 2 energetic young boys.