Logo and Title

Understanding Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) in Children

teeth grinding

Teeth grinding, medically known as bruxism, is a common condition in which children clench or grind their teeth, often unconsciously, typically during sleep. Bruxism can also occur during the day as a reaction to stress or concentration. While the exact prevalence of bruxism in children is difficult to determine, studies suggest that it affects around 15-33% of children at some point during their developmental years.

The causes of bruxism in children can be multifaceted and are often linked to a combination of physical, psychological, and genetic factors. Some common causes include:

  • Dental Issues: Misalignment of teeth or an abnormal bite can lead to bruxism. Children whose upper and lower teeth don’t meet properly might grind their teeth to try and correct the bite.
  • Stress and Anxiety: Emotional factors, such as stress, anxiety, and tension, can trigger bruxism. Changes in routine, family issues, or school-related stress can be significant contributors.
  • Hyperactivity: Children with hyperactivity disorders, such as ADHD, are more prone to bruxism.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, like cerebral palsy or conditions that cause frequent headaches or earaches, are associated with bruxism.
  • Medications: Some medications, especially those that affect the central nervous system, can lead to teeth grinding as a side effect.

Identifying Symptoms of Teeth Grinding

Early detection of bruxism is crucial in preventing potential damage to a child’s teeth and addressing any underlying issues. Parents should be vigilant in identifying the symptoms of teeth grinding, which can often go unnoticed due to the nocturnal nature of the condition.

Common Signs to Watch For:

  • Audible Grinding Sounds: One of the most apparent signs of bruxism is the grinding sound a child makes while sleeping. This sound is often loud enough to be heard by parents or siblings.
  • Worn Teeth: Visible wear and tear on the teeth, such as flattened tips or chipped enamel, can indicate grinding.
  • Tooth Sensitivity: Increased sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks may be a sign of enamel wear due to bruxism.
  • Jaw Pain or Tiredness: Children who grind their teeth might complain of a sore or tired jaw upon waking up.
  • Headaches: Frequent headaches, particularly in the temples, are a common symptom associated with bruxism.
  • Cheek Damage: Chewing or biting the inside of the cheeks can be a sign of night-time teeth grinding.
  • Restless Sleep: Children with bruxism often experience disturbed sleep patterns and may wake up frequently during the night.

The Impact of Teeth Grinding on Oral Health

Teeth grinding, if left unchecked, can have significant short-term and long-term effects on a child’s oral health. Understanding these impacts can help parents take timely action to mitigate potential damage.

Short-Term Effects:

  • Tooth Damage: Continuous grinding can lead to chipped, cracked, or fractured teeth. The constant pressure exerted on the teeth can also cause wear on the enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay and cavities.
  • Gum Recession: Bruxism can contribute to gum recession, exposing the sensitive roots of the teeth and increasing the risk of periodontal disease.
  • Jaw Discomfort: Persistent grinding can lead to jaw pain, tightness, and discomfort, often resulting in a condition known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
  • Sleep Disruption: The discomfort and pain associated with bruxism can disrupt a child’s sleep, leading to tiredness and irritability during the day.

Long-Term Effects:

  • Severe Tooth Wear: Over time, the continuous grinding can lead to significant tooth wear, shortening the teeth and altering the bite. This can affect chewing and speaking abilities.
  • Dental Restoration Needs: Children with severe bruxism may require extensive dental restorations, such as crowns, bridges, or even root canals, to repair the damage caused by grinding.
  • Chronic Jaw Disorders: Long-term bruxism can lead to chronic jaw disorders, including TMJ, which can cause persistent pain and discomfort in the jaw, face, and neck.
  • Developmental Issues: Severe bruxism during the developmental years can impact the alignment and growth of permanent teeth, potentially leading to orthodontic issues that require correction.


tips to prevent bruxism in children

Tip 1: Establish a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Creating a calming bedtime routine can significantly reduce the likelihood of teeth grinding in children by promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels before sleep.

Importance of a Calming Routine:

  • Reduces Stress: A consistent bedtime routine helps signal to the child’s body that it’s time to wind down, reducing overall stress and anxiety levels, which are common triggers for bruxism.
  • Improves Sleep Quality: A predictable routine can improve sleep quality by making it easier for children to fall asleep and stay asleep, reducing the chances of night-time teeth grinding.

Activities That Promote Relaxation:

  • Reading: Reading a book together can be a soothing activity that helps transition from the day’s activities to bedtime.
  • Warm Bath: A warm bath before bed can relax muscles and promote a sense of calm.
  • Soft Music: Playing soft, calming music can create a peaceful environment conducive to sleep.
  • Mindfulness Exercises: Simple mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing or guided imagery, can help children relax and prepare for sleep.
  • Consistent Bedtime: Establishing a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends, helps regulate the child’s internal clock and promote better sleep.

Tip 2: Monitor Stress and Anxiety Levels

Managing stress and anxiety is crucial in preventing bruxism, as emotional distress is a significant contributing factor.

How Stress and Anxiety Contribute to Bruxism:

  • Physical Manifestation: Children often manifest their stress and anxiety physically, and teeth grinding is one such manifestation.
  • Sleep Disruption: Stress and anxiety can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to increased instances of bruxism during the night.

Strategies for Managing and Reducing Stress in Children:

  • Open Communication: Encourage open communication with your child about their feelings and concerns. Let them know it’s okay to talk about what worries them.
  • Routine and Structure: Maintain a regular daily routine to provide a sense of security and predictability.
  • Physical Activity: Encourage regular physical activity, which can help reduce stress and promote overall well-being.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Teach your child relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.
  • Limit Screen Time: Reduce screen time, especially before bed, as excessive screen use can contribute to anxiety and disrupt sleep.
  • Professional Support: If stress and anxiety are significantly impacting your child’s well-being, consider seeking support from a mental health professional.

Tip 3: Ensure Proper Hydration

Proper hydration is essential for overall health and can also play a role in preventing bruxism in children.

Link Between Dehydration and Bruxism:

  • Muscle Function: Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps and tension, which might contribute to teeth grinding.
  • Saliva Production: Adequate hydration is crucial for maintaining saliva production, which helps protect the teeth and gums.

Encouraging Adequate Water Intake:

  • Regular Water Breaks: Encourage your child to drink water regularly throughout the day, especially during and after physical activities.
  • Water Over Sugary Drinks: Promote water as the primary beverage choice over sugary or caffeinated drinks, which can dehydrate the body.
  • Accessible Water: Ensure your child has access to a water bottle, both at home and school, to make drinking water convenient.
  • Flavoured Water: If your child is reluctant to drink plain water, consider adding a slice of fruit or a splash of natural juice to make it more appealing.

Tip 4: Maintain a Balanced Diet

A balanced diet is crucial for a child’s overall health and can influence the occurrence of bruxism.

Nutritional Factors Affecting Teeth Grinding:

  • Calcium and Magnesium: These minerals play a vital role in muscle function and relaxation. A deficiency can lead to muscle cramps and increase the likelihood of teeth grinding.
  • B Vitamins: Adequate intake of B vitamins helps reduce stress and promote healthy nerve function, which can help in managing bruxism.
  • Avoiding Triggers: Certain foods and drinks, such as caffeine and sugary snacks, can contribute to hyperactivity and disrupt sleep, exacerbating bruxism.

Foods to Include and Avoid for Better Oral Health:


  • Leafy Greens: Rich in calcium and magnesium.
  • Whole Grains: High in B vitamins.
  • Dairy Products: Excellent sources of calcium.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Provide essential minerals and healthy fats.


  • Sugary Snacks: Can lead to tooth decay and increase hyperactivity.
  • Caffeinated Drinks: Can disrupt sleep and increase anxiety levels.
  • Processed Foods: Often lack essential nutrients and can contribute to overall poor health.

Tip 5: Regular Dental Check-ups

Regular dental check-ups are essential for maintaining oral health and managing bruxism in children.

Importance of Routine Dental Visits:

  • Early Detection: Regular visits allow dentists to identify signs of bruxism early and take preventive measures.
  • Professional Advice: Dentists can provide tailored advice and interventions to help manage and reduce teeth grinding.
  • Monitoring Progress: Routine check-ups help monitor the condition and effectiveness of any treatments or interventions.

How Dentists Can Help Identify and Manage Bruxism:

  • Examinations: Dentists can examine teeth for signs of wear, fractures, or other damage indicative of bruxism.
  • Custom Mouthguards: In some cases, dentists might recommend a custom-fitted mouthguard to protect the teeth during sleep.
  • Behavioural Recommendations: Dentists can provide advice on lifestyle and behavioural changes to help reduce teeth grinding.
  • Referrals: If necessary, dentists can refer patients to specialists, such as orthodontists or paediatricians, for further evaluation and treatment.

Tip 6: Use a Night Guard if Recommended

In some cases, a dentist might recommend the use of a night guard to help manage and prevent the damage caused by teeth grinding. A night guard is a custom-fitted dental appliance that is worn over the teeth during sleep to protect them from the effects of bruxism.

When and Why a Night Guard Might Be Necessary:

  • Severe Grinding: If a child exhibits severe teeth grinding that leads to significant wear or damage, a night guard can provide protection.
  • Jaw Pain: For children experiencing jaw pain or discomfort due to bruxism, a night guard can help alleviate the pressure on the jaw muscles.
  • Prevention of Future Damage: A night guard can prevent further damage to the teeth and gums, preserving oral health and avoiding the need for extensive dental treatments in the future.

Types of Night Guards and Their Benefits:

  • Custom-Fitted Night Guards: These are made by a dentist to fit the specific contours of a child’s teeth. They offer the best protection and comfort.
  • Boil-and-Bite Night Guards: Available over-the-counter, these night guards can be softened in boiling water and then moulded to fit the child’s teeth. While less precise than custom-fitted options, they are a more affordable alternative.
  • Stock Night Guards: Pre-formed and ready to wear, these are the least expensive option but often less comfortable and effective due to their one-size-fits-all design.

Tip 7: Encourage Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is essential for children’s overall health and well-being. It also plays a significant role in reducing stress, which is a common trigger for bruxism.

Benefits of Exercise in Reducing Stress and Promoting Overall Health:

  • Stress Reduction: Physical activity helps release endorphins, which are natural stress relievers. This can reduce the likelihood of stress-induced bruxism.
  • Improved Sleep: Regular exercise can improve sleep quality, which is crucial for preventing teeth grinding that occurs during sleep.
  • Healthy Outlet: Exercise provides a healthy outlet for pent-up energy and emotions, helping children manage anxiety and stress effectively.

Age-Appropriate Physical Activities for Children:

  • Outdoor Play: Encourage activities like running, cycling, or playing in the park, which allow children to expend energy and enjoy nature.
  • Organised Sports: Participation in sports like soccer, basketball, or swimming can help build teamwork skills and provide regular physical exercise.
  • Family Activities: Engage in family activities such as hiking, walking, or biking together to promote physical fitness and bonding.
  • Home Exercises: Simple exercises at home, like jumping jacks, skipping rope, or dancing, can be fun and effective ways to stay active.

Tip 8: Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment

A comfortable and conducive sleep environment is crucial for promoting restful sleep and reducing the likelihood of bruxism.

Ideal Sleep Conditions to Reduce Teeth Grinding:

  • Comfortable Bed: Ensure the child’s bed is comfortable with a good quality mattress and pillows that support a restful sleep.
  • Dark and Quiet Room: A dark and quiet room can help children fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Consider using blackout curtains and white noise machines if needed.
  • Cool Temperature: Keep the bedroom at a cool, comfortable temperature, as overheating can disrupt sleep.
  • Minimal Distractions: Remove electronic devices and other distractions from the bedroom to create a peaceful sleep environment.

Tips for Improving Sleep Quality:

  • Consistent Bedtime Routine: Maintain a consistent bedtime routine to help regulate the child’s sleep-wake cycle.
  • Limit Screen Time: Reduce screen time, especially before bed, as the blue light from screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Teach relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or gentle stretching before bed to help the child wind down.
  • Comfort Items: Allow the child to have comfort items, such as a favourite blanket or stuffed animal, to create a sense of security and comfort.

Tip 9: Teach Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques can help children manage stress and anxiety, which are common triggers for bruxism. Teaching children how to relax can be an effective strategy in preventing teeth grinding.

Relaxation Methods Like Deep Breathing and Mindfulness:

  • Deep Breathing: Simple deep breathing exercises can help calm the mind and body. Teach the child to inhale deeply through the nose, hold the breath for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through the mouth.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This technique involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in the body, helping to release tension and promote relaxation.
  • Guided Imagery: Use guided imagery to help the child visualise calming and peaceful scenes. This can be done by reading a guided imagery script or using audio recordings.
  • Mindfulness Meditation: Encourage the child to focus on the present moment through mindfulness meditation. This can involve paying attention to their breath, body sensations, or sounds around them.

How Parents Can Guide Children in Practising These Techniques:

  • Set an Example: Practise relaxation techniques yourself and involve your child in these practices. Children often learn by observing and imitating their parents.
  • Create a Routine: Incorporate relaxation techniques into the daily routine, especially before bed, to help the child unwind.
  • Be Patient: It may take time for children to learn and feel comfortable with these techniques. Be patient and provide positive reinforcement.
  • Use Resources: There are many books, apps, and online resources available that can help guide children in practising relaxation techniques.

Tip 10: Avoid Caffeine and Sugary Foods Before Bed

Dietary habits play a significant role in managing bruxism. Avoiding certain foods and drinks before bed can help reduce the risk of teeth grinding.

Impact of Caffeine and Sugar on Sleep and Teeth Grinding:

  • Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that can interfere with a child’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. It can also increase anxiety levels, which can trigger bruxism.
  • Sugary Foods: Consuming sugary foods and drinks before bed can lead to a spike in energy levels, making it difficult for children to settle down and sleep. Sugar can also contribute to tooth decay, compounding the issues caused by bruxism.

Alternative Snacks and Beverages for Evening Consumption:

  • Warm Milk: A glass of warm milk can be soothing and help promote sleep.
  • Fruits: Fresh fruits like bananas or apples can be a healthy and satisfying snack before bed.
  • Herbal Tea: Caffeine-free herbal teas, such as chamomile, can help relax the mind and body.
  • Yoghurt: A small serving of yoghurt can be a healthy and filling snack that is easy on the stomach before bed.

Encouragement to Consult with Dental Professionals

It is important for parents to consult with dental professionals if they suspect their child is experiencing bruxism. Dentists can provide valuable insights, diagnose the condition, and recommend appropriate interventions to manage and prevent teeth grinding.

At Care For Smiles, we understand the impact of bruxism on children’s oral health and overall well-being. Our experienced dental team is here to provide comprehensive care and support to help your child achieve a healthy, beautiful smile. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can help manage bruxism and other dental concerns.

By implementing these expert tips, parents can take proactive steps to prevent and manage teeth grinding in their children, ensuring better oral health and overall well-being.


1. What causes children to grind their teeth?
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, in children can have various causes, including stress, anxiety, misaligned teeth, hyperactivity, and certain medical conditions. It can also be a result of teething in infants or a habit that develops during the growth and development of the teeth and jaws.

2. How common is teeth grinding in children?
Teeth grinding is relatively common in children, with studies suggesting that it affects around 15-33% of children at some point during their developmental years. It is most prevalent in preschool-aged children and typically decreases with age, although some children may continue to grind their teeth into adolescence and adulthood.

3. Is teeth grinding harmful to my child’s teeth?
While occasional teeth grinding may not cause significant harm, persistent and severe bruxism can lead to dental issues such as tooth wear, fractures, and jaw pain. Over time, it can affect the alignment of the teeth and contribute to other oral health problems if left untreated.

4. How can I tell if my child is grinding their teeth?
Parents should watch for signs of teeth grinding, such as audible grinding sounds during sleep, worn teeth, jaw pain or tiredness upon waking, increased tooth sensitivity, and restless sleep. Consulting with a dentist can help confirm the presence of bruxism and determine the appropriate course of action.

5. What can I do to help my child stop grinding their teeth?
There are several strategies parents can employ to help manage and reduce teeth grinding in children. These include establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, monitoring stress and anxiety levels, ensuring proper hydration, maintaining a balanced diet, and encouraging physical activity. Additionally, a dentist may recommend the use of a night guard or other interventions tailored to the child’s needs.

6. When should I seek professional help for my child’s teeth grinding?
If you notice signs of bruxism in your child or if they complain of jaw pain, tooth sensitivity, or disrupted sleep, it is advisable to consult with a dental professional. A dentist can assess the severity of the condition, identify any underlying causes, and recommend appropriate treatments or interventions to help manage the teeth grinding and protect your child’s oral health.

More Articles