Daytime Teeth Grinding in Children

Children who grind their teeth during the daytime have a condition called bruxism that causes clenching and grinding. Bruxism affects at least 2 out of 10 children, according to KidsHealth.org. Bruxism can do significant damage to your child's teeth and it causes discomfort of the jaw muscles. Consult with your child's dentist for solutions to teeth grinding.

Children sometimes grind their teeth because of anxiety. (Image: Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images)

Identification

You often hear your child grinding his teeth as the top teeth slide firmly against the bottom teeth. Clenching is also common, which is when a child firmly bites down, but does not slide the teeth against each other. Ear aches, headaches, jaw pain and tooth sensitivity are all symptoms of bruxism. It may be difficult for your child to open his mouth wide without experiencing discomfort, and the muscles that control jaw movements feel tight. It can appear as though your child is chewing gum because of the contractions of the jaw muscle. Damage is sometimes present on the tooth enamel, and your child may notice a clicking sound when opening his mouth due to temporomandibular joint disease that develops from bruxism.

Cause

The exact mechanical mechanism that triggers bruxism is unknown, but it seems that stress often correlates with daytime grinding. Even children can experience stressors, such as tests, social responsibilities, planning a slumber party, the death of a family member or pet, or dealing with their parents' divorce. It's possible that misaligned teeth also cause bruxism to occur. An ear infection can result in grinding, but the grinding can also cause an ear ache. If your child is hyperactive or taking medication for depression, these factors increase the risk of teeth grinding during the day.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause of your child's daytime bruxism. Half of children with bruxism between the ages of 3 and 10 will stop grinding their teeth by age 13. If your child is in the middle of a stressful situation, talk to him about how he is feeling and come up with solutions for problems. If you're unable to help your child's stress, make an appointment with a mental health therapist. Learning relaxation techniques can help bruxism from stress and anxiety. Have your child take a warm bath and listen to soothing music to unwind. Give her a back massage while she rests. Massaging the neck, shoulders and face also relieves tension of the muscles involves in teeth grinding. If your child's teeth are misaligned, make an appointment with a dentist. A dentist can usually fix the problem within a few visits. Apply an ice pack or a hot compress to her jaw to reduce pain from grinding.

Prevention

Encourage your child to relax his jaw frequently throughout the day. Your child must practice relaxing his jaw to create awareness of the grinding so he can unlearn daytime grinding. This will help him stop himself when grinding occurs. Talk with your child frequently about what's going on in her life, so you can help her work through difficult situations by suggesting solutions before stress builds. Encourage physical activity on most days of the week and ensure she eats a healthy diet. Ensure your child goes to the dentist at least twice per year for a regular checkup. Do not allow your child to drink caffeinated beverages.

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