Quickly peeking into your young child’s room on your way to bed, you hear a strange gnawing noise. Nope, not a termite infestation: Your child is grinding their teeth while sleeping, a habit called bruxism. About 20% to 30% of kids have bruxism.
Though the habit is concerning, have no fear—here’s what you need to know about teeth grinding while sleeping.
What Causes Bruxism?
Dental experts aren’t certain why kids grind their teeth at night, but theories include bite misalignment, unconsciously trying to wear down a high tooth, or even stress. Children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are also more likely to have bruxism.
When to Visit the Dentist
If you discover that your child grinds their teeth in their sleep, a trip to the dentist is in order. A dentist can evaluate your child’s teeth, check if there are signs of grinding and choose an approach—whether to wait and see if the child outgrows the habit, which many do, or to treat it.
No intervention is usually required for preschool-age children, but older kids who still grind their teeth will likely need treatment.
How to Treat Bruxism
Treatment typically includes a customized nighttime mouthguard that prevents teeth gnashing, and, therefore, the detrimental effects. Night grinders can actually wear their teeth down to little nubs if the problem continues unchecked, so early intervention is optimal. Kids may also complain of a sore jaw or pain when chewing as a result of bruxism.
Ways to Prevent Teeth Grinding at Night
If your child is old enough to express their feelings, the dentist may ask if they’re worried about anything and also what their bedtime ritual is like.
Kids who are worried about events like sleep-away camp or an upcoming move to a new city may experience stress-related grinding. This can be alleviated by working through the issue with parents or a therapist, or by participating in stress-relieving activities like sports, bike riding or just playing in the yard. Adopting a relaxing bedtime ritual like a nice bath, reading a good book or listening to soft music before sleep can also help.
Teeth grinding while sleeping is a fairly common problem among kids, and your child likely won’t need any treatment unless they continue grinding past preschool. But pinpointing any source of stress and making bedtime as relaxing and comforting as possible are great ways to help curb the behavior.
For more tips on promoting good dental hygiene with children, check out United Concordia Dental’s Benefits Bridge.