Say “lights out” to kids’ teeth grinding

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September 6th, 2018

Is the stress of the new school year causing your kid to grind their teeth? If it is, your child isn’t alone. An estimated 15 to 33 percent of children will grind their teeth at some point, compared to roughly 8 percent of adults. The majority of teeth grinding (also called bruxism) will happen after kids have dozed off to dreamland, which can make it tough for them to know it’s happening. Luckily, parents can help by learning how to spot grinding and how to help their kid overcome it.

Does your child grind their teeth?

When it comes to teeth grinding, every child has a different experience. In some cases, bruxism can cause them to chip their teeth or wear down tooth enamel, which can lead to pain while chewing or increased sensitivity to hot and cold. Additionally, kids can develop headaches or earaches, and in severe cases, jaw pain that makes it difficult to chew or even open their mouths.

Some children, however, don’t exhibit any symptoms. The best way to catch teeth grinding in these instances is to listen while they sleep. Because of the noise it makes, bruxism is easy to distinguish among the other sounds of a peaceful snooze. If you suspect your child is affected, schedule an appointment with your dentist to get them diagnosed and to learn about treatment options. Keeping regular dental appointments also gives your dentist a chance to catch bruxism by identifying signs like tooth fractures or other damage to teeth.

How can you help your child stop?

The best way to stop bruxism is to identify the root cause, which could include:

Kids often stop grinding their teeth when these factors dissipate or when they get their adult teeth. Some, though, maintain the habit into adolescence. Several treatment options are available if this happens to your child.

Normally, the problem is minor enough that treatment isn’t required. But if your child experiences discomfort or dental damage, your dentist may recommend a customized night guard to protect teeth during sleep. Dental coverage on night guards – commonly referred to as “occlusal guards” – varies, so check your plan to learn if it applies.

For kids who grind their teeth because of stress, parents can help with a few soothing steps around naptime and bedtime.

Teeth grinding might be a nuisance, but it’s relatively simple to address. By knowing what to look for and working with your dentist, you can help your kids overcome teeth grinding and get back to a restful sleep.