Overcast   80.0F  |  Forecast »

Teeth Grinding During Sleep

More than a third of children grind their teeth while they sleep. What's the cause? What should parents do?

Deep, even breathing, blankets softly rustling, the occasional sigh – the sweet sounds of children asleep are music to a weary parent's ears.

Until the serenity is pierced by the unmistakable noise of grinding teeth. When I tiptoed past my slumbering preschooler's bedroom one night, I heard her peaceful sleep sounds shattered by the bone-rattling, fingernails-on-a-blackboard racket of her tiny teeth, gnashing away.

I lapsed into a moment of parental panic. Surely, this would damage her teeth! Did she do this every night? Was she overstressed? Should I wake her?

The grinding noises tapered off after a few minutes, but my questions continued.

Many parents will hear their children's teeth grinding at some point. In fact, a study in Journal of Dentistry for Children found that more than a third of parents report the condition in their children. "It can get pretty loud," admits Paul Bussman, DMD, FAGD, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry.

Though teeth grinding, or bruxism, may be alarming or worrisome, "It's generally a normal part of the growing process," he says.

Effects of teeth grinding

Grinding can begin in babyhood – as soon as children have teeth to grind – and generally starts to subside as the permanent teeth begin to erupt, says Bussman. The condition commonly disappears on its own in childhood, but a small percentage of kids will continue to grind as adults. Severe or persistent grinders may suffer facial pain, earaches, jaw joint disorders, damaged teeth and disturbed sleep.

According to Dr. Khaleel Ahmad of the Iowa Sleep Disorders Center, researchers haven't pinned down a cause for bruxism. Genetics may play a role; if either parent grinds his or her teeth at night, children are almost twice as likely to grind their own.

Daytime stress and medicines like amphetamines have been associated with bruxism. Interestingly, nearly a third of grinders also bite their nails, and over 20 percent suck their thumbs, Ahmed says.

How to deal

If your child's teeth have become nighttime noisemakers, here are some tips for coping.

  • Do not disturb. "Don't wake a child engaged in nighttime teeth grinding," says Bussman. "They're not aware of it, so bringing it to their attention will probably confuse them."
  • Stress less. Grinding can be associated with daytime stress, so help kids relax. Ask them to talk about any stressful events they may have encountered during their day, and encourage them to unwind in the hours before bedtime with a bath, books and quiet activities.
  • Practice healthy habits. Help your child maintain good sleep habits with an age-appropriate bedtime, a regular bedtime routine, and a cool, dark, quiet and comfortable sleep environment.
  • Change sleep positions. Bruxism occurs more commonly during back sleeping. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends back sleeping for infants, but older children who grind may be more comfortable sleeping in another position.
  • Get a move on. Encourage kids to get adequate exercise. Physical activity helps kids fall asleep faster, promotes deep, restful sleep and eases stress, which can contribute to teeth grinding.
  • Turndown service. As difficult as it may be, try not to become overly concerned with the occasional episode of bruxim. Bussman advises parents to turn down the volume on monitoring devices, so they aren't tuned in to every little sound.

If grinding regularly interferes with sleep or if a child complains of pain in her teeth or face, see a dentist. In severe cases, a dentist may prescribe a nightguard made of soft plastic to protect the teeth and the jaw joint. Occasionally, grinding is associated with a misaligned bite. If that's the case, a pediatric dentist will refer your child to an orthodontist.

Thankfully, my little bruxist has eased up. But if I hear more teeth-gnashing noises coming from her room, I'll be better prepared – and I'll worry a lot less.

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Easy Lunch Wraps for School Lunches

Easy Lunch Wraps for School Lunches

Skip the bread and use tortillas to make one of these recipes for your kid's lunchbox.

Egg-Freezing Parties for Career Women Not Ready to be Moms

Egg-Freezing Parties for Career Women Not Ready to be Moms

Company EggBanxx just took fertility awareness to a new level, complete with cocktails and swank. Will the trend help? Will it stick? Or is this all a bit much?

AHA Arts Clear-Cling Stamps Are Fun for Paper Crafts

AHA Arts Clear-Cling Stamps Are Fun for Paper Crafts

For a creative, offbeat alternative to woodblock stamping, try these cool tools that add a great look to your DIY projects. Buy them here in southeast Michigan.

Craft Roundup: Small Projects to Make with Washi Tape, Confetti, More

Craft Roundup: Small Projects to Make with Washi Tape, Confetti, More

Tiny stuff is terrific! This roundup of DIY fun from various blogs shows you how to make matchbook notebooks, gift bags, stickers and bitty butterflies.

Frustrated Mom Creates App to Stop Teens from Ignoring Calls

Frustrated Mom Creates App to Stop Teens from Ignoring Calls

One mother got sick of her kids blowing off her phone calls, so she created an app to make it impossible. Stroke of genius – or an overstep of parental bounds?

Ice Cream Sandwich Recipes

Ice Cream Sandwich Recipes

Combine ice cream with cookies and you've got the perfect dessert combination. Whip up one of these cool treats with the kids!

Vintage Summer Pins Made from Old Belt Buckles

Vintage Summer Pins Made from Old Belt Buckles

A perfect summer craft, this DIY project is centered around used plastic accessories, which are cheap finds at garage sales and thrift stores.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement