Teeth Grinding…In Children?

Stress can manifest itself in many ways. You might have experienced it by way of sleepless nights, weight gain or moodiness.


However, have you ever woken up in the morning and felt like your teeth and jaw were sore? This uncomfortable feeling is often the result of grinding your teeth, or “bruxism.” More commonly done unconsciously while you sleep, teeth grinding can also occur when you are awake, and is commonly a result of stress. For those that grind their teeth during daytime hours, it’s often done unwittingly during intense concentration, like when you’re driving through traffic, working on a presentation at work, or lifting heavy objects. 


But, is teeth grinding only a thing of adults? No! Your kids can suffer from bruxism, too, which can have an even more serious impact on developing palates and mouths. 


In this article, we’ve outlined the common problems associated with teeth grinding, and what to be on the lookout for if you suspect your child is doing it. 

 Dental technician working on false teeth

Symptoms and causes 


The most common symptom of bruxism is headaches. Unfortunately, many patients admit that when they wake up with a headache, they don’t think about teeth grinding—they almost always assume it’s from allergies or poor sleep. But if you’re constantly waking up with a headache, don’t just pop an Advil and move on. In company with other symptoms such as a stiff neck, ear pain, jaw problems and sleep disorders, it can all be attributed to teeth grinding.  


Unfortunately, just like with constant morning headaches, these symptoms can easily be written off as the signs of an impending cold or the result of Texas’s long allergy season. If you notice a pattern that isn’t alleviated by a change of seasons or sleep habits, it’s time to give us a call so we can determine the root cause. 


Experts believe that 70% of people clench their teeth as a result of stress. However, other causes include anxiety, smoking, heavy alcohol use or depression. Teeth grinding is also commonly associated with people who suffer from sleep apnea. If you suffer from any of these conditions, it is important to be aware of the signs and seek help at the first symptom.  




While bruxism doesn’t cause immediate complications, over time it will lead to tooth damage that could necessitate crowns, tooth restoration, or jaw surgery. It can also lead to TMJ syndrome, which occurs as a result of the temporomandibular joint (the joint that connects your jaw to your skull) becoming injured or damaged. In severe cases, TMJ sufferers may need jaw surgery to relieve the pain. 


Teeth grinding in kids 


Teeth grinding is quite common in children. Some experts believe 20-30% of children experience it at some point. Unlike its manifestation in adults, many children outgrow teeth grinding over time. Children are most likely to clench their jaws or grind their teeth as a result of poor tooth alignment, or as a result of pain experienced during teething, or even an ear infection. If you suspect your child is doing this, it’s important to visit the dentist to determine if their enamel is chipped or if they are experiencing any sensitivity. 


Most bruxism in children is mild and doesn’t have long lasting side-effects. However, it is important to be on the lookout for complications and seek help at the first signs of TMJ. 


Teeth grinding is a condition that can easily be fixed with the help of your dentist. Your dentist may recommend a custom-fitted night guard that fits over your bottom teeth to protect the jaw muscles and prevent TMJ. In addition to dental guards, practicing relaxation techniques before bed to ease stress can help relieve the grinding of teeth. If you or a family member—big or small—has been suffering with this and wasn’t sure what to do, give us a call today so we can lay out all the options and get that mouth on the road to recovery!

Also published on Medium.

About Mark C. Marchbanks, D.D.S.

Dr. Mark Marchbanks has practiced dentistry in Arlington Texas since 1983. He enjoys caring for patients young and old. You can find Dr. Marchbanks on
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If it's been more than 6 months since your last teeth cleaning, give us a call today to schedule your check-up.

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