News & Reviews

My Child Grinds His/Her Teeth at Night, Should I Be Concerned?

September 1, 2020 4:41 pm

The medical term for grinding of the teeth is bruxism. Bruxism is common in pre-school age children, observed in almost half of children in this age range.  The exact cause is unknown but there are some exacerbating factors such as certain medications, genetic predisposition, anxiety, increased arousals, and activation of the sympathetic autonomic system.

Bruxism has been associated with increased rates of daytime symptoms including teeth clenching while awake, headaches, and wear on the teeth. Younger children can get more teeth wear as primary teeth are not as strong, this can be seen normally but can be worsened by some factors including exposure to soft drinks and frequent vomiting. Mouth guards are used less frequently for primary teeth.

 girl sleeping in bed

Bruxism can be observed on a sleep study or polysomnography. Sleep studies can be useful to evaluate for sleep disordered breathing, abnormal leg movements, and frequent or worrisome parasomnia events (usually sleep walking or sleep terrors). If your child has symptoms that could indicate these disorders such as daytime sleepiness, fatigue, frequent awakenings at night, snoring, pauses in breathing, or frequent leg kicks, then a sleep study can be helpful. A sleep study is not routinely indicated for the symptom of bruxism by itself, if no other symptoms are present then it would not be considered a disorder.

In conclusion, teeth grinding alone may not be cause for concern, particularly if it seems mild and occasional. If other daytime symptoms or concern for poor sleep is present, then a clinical sleep evaluation could be useful to see if a sleep study is indicated. Please reach out to The Pediatric and Adolescent Sleep Center if you have concerns about your child’s sleep.

Dr. Melody Hawkins

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