Bruxism in Children: Numbers, Causes and Impact

There are certain dental conditions that, while they more commonly affect adults, will also impact a portion of children, sometimes in slightly different ways. A good example here is known as bruxism, which is the medical term for the reflexive grinding of the teeth that many people take part in.

At Southridge Pediatric Dentistry, our child dental checkups and cleanings are valuable for a number of reasons, including our ability to spot a number of potential risks or conditions taking place in your child’s mouth – such as signs that they’re grinding their teeth if this behavior has been taking place recently. How common is bruxism in children, how is it caused, and what are the impacts and prevention/treatment methods for children dealing with teeth grinding issues? Here are some basic areas to be aware of as a parent.

General Numbers and Risk Levels

As we noted above, bruxism is more common in adults than children. However, it still takes place in children, with most reputable sources pegging the percentage of children who deal with this condition at some point during their childhood between 20% and 35% or so.

Technically speaking, every child is at-risk of tooth grinding issues, as their causes are varied and not entirely defined (more on this below). These concerns tend to appear at two points in a child’s life: Either directly after their baby teeth erupt, or when their permanent teeth have begun to emerge. However, it should be noted that even among kids who do experience bruxism, the majority grow out of it and it is not a permanent condition.

Causes of Bruxism

As we noted above, there isn’t final consensus on precisely what causes bruxism, though dentists and doctors have a good idea of some likely causes. Here are a few we’re pretty confident in:

  • Stress or anxiety taking place
  • Pain issues, often in other parts of the body
  • Improper tooth alignment that causes subconscious grinding
  • Medical conditions like allergies, cerebral palsy or dietary deficiencies, which sometimes lead to bruxism
  • Reaction to certain medications

If your child reports headaches, earaches, facial pain or jaw problems, and another condition or issue doesn’t explain these, speak to our dentists about checking for the signs of bruxism.

Short-Term Impact

Generally speaking, the short-term effects of bruxism are those we mentioned just above, especially headaches or pain around the ear. This comes from the clenching of the jaw, which often becomes more severe at night while kids sleep. In addition, untreated bruxism issues may risk chipping or breaking of teeth as the teeth weaken, especially if baby teeth are still in the mouth.

For more on bruxism in children and how to spot and prevent it, or to learn about any of our child dental services like dental X-rays, fluoride treatments and more, speak to the staff at Southridge Pediatric Dentistry today.