Night grinding (nocturnal bruxism)* is a very common occurrence in children. It is possible that it could be caused by the stresses of everyday life which is new to a child. Some theories include attempting to open up the middle ear to equalize the pressure. Regardless of the cause, most childhood grinding does not need to be treated. A majority of the cases tend to clear up as the child gets older. I have seen many cases where a child has ground their baby teeth down to little numbs only to end up with a fully healthy set of permanent teeth. The first line of defense for night grinding in an adult is the construction of a nightguard. However, a child is actively growing and wearing a nightguard can stunt the growth of the roof of the mouth, causing more problems in the future than there would have been with no treatment. So if you go into your child’s room at night and hear sounds of gnashing teeth reverberating off the walls, don’t be too concerned.
Teeth grinding is a very common problem. It’s not unusual for someone to not be aware that they are even doing it. It is more common at night since during the day, most people can catch themselves in the act. Stress is the most common reason for grinding. While sleeping (called nocturnal bruxism), it becomes an outlet for the normal stresses involved in everyday life. Another cause can be an uneven bite and the body’s reaction to try to even it out by subconsciously gnashing the teeth together in an attempt to even everything out.
Untreated teeth grinding can cause pain in the jaw joint (temperomandibular joint) and the surrounding muscles. It can also lead to premature extreme tooth wear necessitating major dental reconstruction. To counter the problem, if the grinding is present during the daytime, I tell my patients to try to catch themselves doing it. If they find that they are clenching, then they should have “lips together, teeth apart”. This has been very successful for many of my patients. However, most of the grinding problems occur at night. In that case, it is best to build a nightguard, a plastic mouthpiece, to help prevent any further damage from occurring.