Fletcher Allen, a Vermont university hospital and medical center, serves all of
Vermont and the northern New York region. Located in Burlington, Fletcher Allen is a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont.
Tired of the Daily Teeth Grind?
Tired of the Daily Teeth Grind?
Parents have been chewing up a lot of my time with questions about their children grinding their teeth at night. Let me see if I can grind their concerns to a halt with some information on this problem.
The condition of grinding teeth or jaw-clenching carries with it an interesting medical name – bruxism. Bruxism is a term that 30 percent of otherwise healthy children are familiar with it because they do it. However, most of them aren’t aware of it since they are asleep when it happens.
What causes teeth grinding? Sometimes it can be due to a child’s teeth growing improperly and problems with their bite. Other times, it can occur due to stress or even pain from an earache or teething. We know this behavior can also run in families.
So, how do you know if teeth grinding is a problem? The good news is that this condition doesn’t hurt your child or their teeth. Teeth grinding generally can last for a few weeks or months before it simply goes away – usually before adolescence – although it can drive others crazy, especially if they are sharing a room with your child.
If you are at all concerned about your child’s teeth grinding, talk to your pediatrician, who will probably refer you to a pediatric dentist to make sure there is no problem with your child’s teeth or bite. In rare circumstances, the grinding can be severe enough to wear down the enamel (the hard covering) of the teeth and cause facial pain, headache, and jaw problems. But this is usually seen only in teens and adults who have been grinding their teeth for years.
If the teeth are fine, don’t worry and let this problem pass. If the dentist does find that the enamel is worn down, a special night mouth guard may be made to prevent the grinding from occurring at night. Or, a dentist might place stainless steel crowns on the molars to protect the teeth. Again, this is done most commonly in adults.
What will most likely happen is that both your dentist and doctor will work with you to better determine the cause of any stress your child may be experiencing that may be making the night grinding worse. By simply reducing your child’s stress before bedtime with a warm bath or by reading a good book, you can sometimes reduce the frequency and severity of episodes at night until this problem resolves on its own.
Hopefully, tips like this will give you more than a
mouthful of information when it comes to knowing more and worrying less about
your child’s teeth grinding.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids.