After a long day of playing and parenting, watching your child breathe softly and steadily as they sleep is almost magical. Then one night when you check on your sleeping angel, you hear a horrible sound, like nails on a chalkboard. Your peaceful, sleeping child is grinding their teeth!
This is called bruxism. During a deep sleep, some children may clench their jaws and grind their teeth. You may not even know it is happening until you accidentally come across them doing it. Why does this occur?
Reasons for Bruxism
There are several things that may cause a child to grind their teeth as they sleep. Some physical reasons may be that their teeth are not aligned properly or they are experiencing some pain in the area. An earache, for example, may cause a child to do this. It may also be related to stress. If a child is experiencing a stressful situation they may clench and grind. A less likely, but possible, reason would be a reaction to a medication the child is taking.
Effects of Bruxism
A child may have no negative effects from bruxism. However, they may get headaches or have pain in their face, especially around their jaw. If the grinding is a common and severe occurrence it is possible that the child could wear down the enamel on their teeth. Another effect is that the grinding can be annoying to anyone who may share a sleeping space with the child.
How Long Will It Last?
If a child has misaligned teeth, bruxism may last until their baby teeth fall out. Many children naturally stop grinding their teeth before they hit double digits. If the reason for the grinding is a stressor in the child's life, they will likely stop grinding and clenching their teeth when the stress is alleviated.
If your child is exhibiting symptoms of bruxism, it is important to bring it up to their dentist. The dentist will check for any wearing down of the enamel on the child's teeth. They will check the alignment of teeth and will likely ask some questions in order to find out if there is anything going on in their life that may cause the grinding. A pediatric dentist will be able to determine what the next steps are, if any. Severe cases may require the child to wear a type of mouthguard when they sleep, but many cases will eventually go away with no medical intervention.