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Regular teeth grinding or clenching, also known as bruxism, can begin as soon as a child’s teeth appear. It occurs more frequently in children, adolescents, and young adults than in middle-aged and older adults — and is common in toddlers and preschoolers.
Here’s how you can find out if your children are grinding or clenching their teeth and what steps to take next.
Teeth grinding usually takes place while sleeping, but children can also grind their teeth when awake. Although there is often no apparent cause for grinding or clenching, it can be associated with:
In addition, teeth grinding occurs more frequently in families with a history of grinding or clenching.
The most obvious sign of teeth grinding is a loud, grating, gnashing sound made while sleeping or awake. Children who grind or clench their teeth often wake up with a sore jaw or face, headaches, and earaches. They may also experience pain while chewing.
In addition to causing pain, teeth grinding can chip teeth, wear down protective tooth enamel, make teeth more sensitive to hot or cold, lead to tooth decay, and damage fillings.
Teeth grinding can also keep a child from getting a good night’s sleep, which can affect school performance. One study showed that preschoolers who experienced frequent teeth grinding were more likely to be withdrawn and have greater difficulties adjusting to preschool.
Many children outgrow teeth grinding or clenching around the time their permanent teeth start to come in. However, don’t delay seeing your dentist if your child is experiencing teeth grinding at any age to make sure it isn’t causing any permanent damage.