How to Help a Child With Bruxism

Posted by Lisa Edwards on Oct 27th 2015

How to Help a Child With Bruxism

Child Grinds Teeth

For the little crises our children face –scraped knees, growing pains, the common cold, we instinctively know the solutions. We have endless bowls of chicken noodle soup to cure a case of the sniffles. But when it comes to the 36.8% of preschoolers who reported grinding their teeth, there seems to be a lack of clarity out there. Here we attempt to answer the most common questions regarding teeth grinding in children.

How do I know if my Child has bruxism?

Most people who grind their teeth are unaware that they are doing it, so it's often up to parents or siblings to identify the problem.

What to watch for:

  • Loud grinding noises when your child is sleeping
  • Complaints of a sore jaw or face after waking up in the morning
  • Pain with chewing
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold

If you think your child is grinding his or her teeth, visit the dentist, who will examine the teeth for worn enamel, chipped teeth unusual sensitivity.

What causes Bruxism in children?

Experts aren't always sure why bruxism happens. Teeth alignment, response to pain from ear infections or teething are thought to be common causes in children. In most cases, kids will outgrow night grinding.

Stress and anxiety can also be a factor. For example, a child might worry about a test or a change in routine (a new sibling or a new teacher). Even arguing with parents and siblings can cause enough stress to prompt teeth grinding or jaw clenching. Many kids who are hyperactive or ADHD also have bruxism.

What Can I do to help a child with Bruxism?

During the day:

  • Make sure they get the exercise they need every day.
  • Encourage healthy eating with less sugar.
  • Give Positive reinforcement instead of negative.

Before Bed:

  • Keep a consistent bedtime routine: for example, first is bath time, second is brushing teeth, third is story time, fourth is turning the night light on, fifth is hugs and kisses, etc
  • Organize for the next day: Lay out clothing, pack lunch, and the backpack. This will not only help your child be more independent, it will also eliminate the morning rush.
  • Take a warm bath: Oftentimes, warm water serves as a great muscle relaxer, and can help melt away some of the stress and worries of the day. Try using a soothing lavender scent, which can help your child further unwind.
  • Read books or listen to calm music: Help your child set a sleep timer on her alarm clock or simply play a CD, either while she lies in bed or as she begins her bedtime routine (e.g. reading a book). Quiet lullaby music can help a child let go of the thoughts running through her mind and help her get in a more relaxed state.

How do I stop his/her teeth grinding?

You should know that there is no known cure for teeth grinding. 

First, schedule an appointment with your dentist. Grinding and clenching can make a child's face and jaw sore or damage the teeth, dentists may prescribe a night guard to prevent this. The night guard is similar to the protective mouthpieces worn by athletes.

Nightguards can take some getting used to, but positive results happen quickly. There are many  choices of dental nightguard available. It is important to keep in mind the age of the child and that a child’s dental anatomy is continually changing, so unless the night guard is remoldable, you will have to replace it frequently and keep it clean.

Can I Prevent my child from developing bruxism

Most cases of bruxism occur naturally during the growth and development of a child. There is nothing a parent can do to prevent this from happening to your child, but there are ways to prevent permanent damage to their teeth.

On the other hand, stress-induced bruxism can be avoided by addressing the initial stressor. Talk with your kids regularly about their feelings and help them deal with stress.

If you suspect that your child is grinding their teeth, talk to your dentist about what treatment plan is best suited for your child's needs. Many children will outgrow the night grinding habit by age 12.