Have you noticed your 4-year-old grinding their teeth while sleeping? Or maybe your 5 or 7-year-old has been waking up with headaches, and you’re wondering whether bruxism is the cause.
Either way, if you’re curious about teeth grinding or bruxism, you’re in the right place! Here’s everything you need to know about the causes behind grinding teeth, and how to stop grinding teeth in sleep:
What is bruxism?
‘Bruxism’ is the term used to describe grinding or clenching teeth subconsciously. This may occur during the day, during sleep, or day and night.
It’s estimated that 3 out of 10 children experience bruxism before age 5. Pinpointing the exact cause of bruxism in children can be difficult, as there are a number of factors that may be at play.
Potential causes of bruxism in children include:
- Pain, potentially due to an earache or teething
- Misalignment in the teeth and/or jaw bones
- Caffeine consumption
- Stress due to changes in the environment or within the family
- Medical conditions, like cerebral palsy
- Certain types of medications, specifically antipsychotics and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
Should I be concerned about my child clenching or grinding their teeth?
Oftentimes, children will stop this habit on their own as their teeth continue to develop. It’s important that you try to identify the cause of grinding teeth to rule out stress as a cause and to ensure that there is not an underlying medical condition present.
If you aren’t sure what is causing your child’s bruxism habit, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with our experienced team. We have seen many children who clench their teeth or grind their jaws habitually. We can examine your child’s smile and work with you to identify the cause.
Children who continue grinding their teeth when permanent teeth are developing (around age 6 or 7) should be seen for an assessment by our team. Please let us know that your child is grinding their teeth when you visit us for their next check-up, and we’ll help you find the right solution!
How to Stop a Child Grinding Their Teeth
If you’re wondering how to stop grinding teeth in sleep naturally, we have some tips for you!
1. Give your child a teething toy (or DIY toy).
If teething (biting down to relieve the sensation of teeth breaking through the gums) is the cause behind your child’s habit, consider giving them a baby teething toy to bite down on, or a damp towel as a DIY teething toy. Biting down on something other than the teeth can help to reduce some of the pressure.
2. Ensure that your child is drinking enough water.
Dehydration and/or caffeine consumption can cause clenching and grinding. Support your child in drinking the recommended amount of water each day:
- Children 1 to 3 years old need about 4 cups of water per day
- Children 4 to 8 years old need about 5 cups of water per day
- Children older than 8 years need 7 to 8 cups of water per day
If your child is drinking caffeine, it’s a good idea to eliminate it from their diet. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, children under 12 should not drink caffeine. From 12 to 18 years old, teens are advised to drink no more than 100mg (about two 12 oz cans of soda) daily.
3. Help your child practice healthy stress management techniques.
For children who clench mostly at night, developing a calming nighttime routine is key.
Consider making a “no screens an hour before bedtime” rule to prevent blue light exposure. Blue light stimulates the brain and suppresses melatonin production, making it more challenging to fall asleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should tuck your electronics into bed at least 30 minutes before you go to bed!
Try reading with your child before bedtime, doing some deep breathing or yoga, or taking a warm bath to help them relax.
Still have questions about bruxism?
The Kids Smiles team is here for you. If you have any questions about your child’s dental health, oral health, or dental habits, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us and schedule an appointment.
Our team is led by renowned pediatric dentist Dr. Frank Sierra who has more than 25 years of experience providing compassionate, expert care for children and teens.