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Posted:
09/17/13

Does Your Child Grind Her Teeth?

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On a recent family vacation to California, my sister shared a bed with her 8 year old daughter.  She was literally kept up all night by the sound of the 8 year old grinding her teeth!  My sister had no idea this was going on, but once she noticed, she also had no idea what to do about it.

It’s not just something that affects my niece.  My own daughter complains of a sore jaw on some mornings, and her last checkup at the dentist revealed indeed, she was a grinder too.

(My daughter and my niece- the grinders!)

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There are some theories as to why some children grind their teeth, although it isn’t exactly clear.   Researchers believe kids that clench or grind their teeth could be affected by:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Misaligned or missing teeth
  • Genetics
  • Dehydration! (interesting theory)
  • Medications the child is currently taking
  • Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s or cerebral palsy.

My personal theory as to why my own daughter is plagued with this unconscious nighttime habit,  is that she worries about everyone!  She’s constantly “mothering” her brothers, making sure they’ve done their chores and that they are following the rules.  A day hardly goes by when she isn’t stressing about what other people are doing.

(The two girls again, with both of them “mothering” the poor 2 year old)

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While most of the time, teeth grinding is something to not be alarmed about, it could cause some problems.  Headaches, sore jaw, and the development of sensitive teeth are all side effects of this unconscious habit.

So, how can you help your child, if we aren’t even sure why they are doing it?

One of the most immediate solutions is to pick up a mouth guard.  You can get these at any drug store for about $20 and up.  The more you pay for one, usually the better they will fit.  Your dentist can also fit you with one, so it fits perfectly and will be the least intrusive for your child.

If you (like me) believe your child is clenching and grinding because she’s a worry-wart, some relaxation, massage, and slow breathing before bed can help.   We have our daughter tighten all the muscles in her body, and then practice relaxing them.   We practice some quiet yoga poses and focus on our breathing.   The nights we remember to do this seem to definitely help. No waking up with a sore jaw at least.

Lastly, watch your child to monitor whether they are chewing on other objects unconsciously during the day.  No sticking pencils in their mouths, chewing fingernails, or mindlessly chewing on non-food.  If you notice this, let them know to take it out of their mouths, bringing it to their awareness.

If you are worried your child’s grinding is affecting her well-being, or that her teeth are getting too worn down, check with your dentist!  Your dentist will be able to see if it’s something that will require professional intervention (being fitted for a mouth guard) or if it’s something you can try with relaxation at home.

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