Picture this: you’ve awakened in the middle of the night to a strange sound. But it’s nothing supernatural. As a matter of fact, the source is someone you know quite well: your own child. The teeth grinding symptoms are usually quite apparent—some might find it akin to the sound of chewing a rubber keyboard. And for the most part, your kid might not be even aware that they’re doing it in the first place. That said, how do you stop a child from grinding their teeth at night?
Like most good mysteries, it usually starts with getting to the root of the problem. Teeth grinding—also known as bruxism—can happen for many reasons. Your child might have developed the habit of coping with stress. Or maybe they have a case of teeth misalignment. Regardless, knowing what triggers those teeth grinding symptoms can help you fix up the problem once and for all.
If you’re asking how to stop a child from grinding their teeth at night, let us count the ways:
Check if your kid’s bruxism is natural
This is probably a no-brainer to most, but it’s essential to repeat regardless. This is crucial for bruxism, in particular, because not all cases need treatment. As your child’s jaw develops, there’s bound to be some snags when it comes to how their teeth align.
Eventually, once they’re able to keep up with the pace of their developing body, your child should stop grinding their teeth in their sleep naturally. How do you know if your kid’s bruxism is natural, though? Usually, it’s if they wake up in the morning without feeling any pain. If your kid exhibits any of the following teeth grinding problems, however:
- Jaw pain
- Sensitive teeth
- Chipped teeth
Then you might need to have your child’s teeth checked for further problems.
The treatment follows the cause
Once you’ve ruled out natural jaw development, it’s time to move onto other potential causes. Because each case is unique, you can’t approach different problems the same way. Here is a list of potential issues and how you can solve them:
- Stress and anxiety. If your child’s doctor or pediatric dentist diagnoses their bruxism as something stress-related, the first thing you need to do is find ways to lessen this. Whether it’s through stress counseling sessions or a visit to a child psychiatrist, it’s crucial to find the source of your child’s stress. Afterward, your child might be prescribed an exercise program to alleviate the strain on their jaw.
- Sleep apnea. Aside from grinding their teeth, does your child also snore heavily at night? They might just have sleep apnea. If this is the diagnosed cause, you might need to seek their dentist’s advice on how to treat it. Some dentists might refer them to an orthodontist, who can create a night guard for them to use as they sleep. The night guard not only helps them breathe better as they sleep. It can also help develop their mouth muscles in a way that’s beneficial for their oral health.
- Malocclusion. If their bruxism is caused by a bad bite, orthodontic intervention is usually the way to go. Whether it’s braces or invisible aligners, the habit should go away once their teeth are in alignment. Your child’s dentist might also opt to provide them with oral appliances—such as night guards—at first, if your kid is too young for braces.