An extremely common question we receive is “What do we do about teeth grinding?” To be sure, grinding is one of the most common compensations a child’s body makes during sleep. There are several important things to know, both from a practical parenting standpoint and also an overall wellness standpoint.
It’s important to know that grinding in baby teeth is generally not as catastrophic to the teeth themselves as chronic grinding of permanent teeth. One obvious reason for this is the baby teeth are relied upon for function for a shorter period of time compared to permanent teeth. Even with significant wear on the baby teeth as a result of grinding, by the time the grinding begins to create problems that would require treatment, the baby teeth start falling out naturally. Good news!
As a result, in general, dentists are not recommending treatment for teeth grinding in baby teeth for a few key reasons:
#1) Most children can’t be expected to be compliant with consistent wearing of oral devices, especially during sleep
#2) Comfortable wear of an intraoral mouthguard in a child would require a custom fit so as to not block normal airway function
#3) It is cost prohibitive to make new custom mouthguards for a child every time a child’s growth or intraoral development changes the way a custom mouthguard fits.
So generally speaking, the answer to “What should I do about my kid’s grinding?” is nothing.
While practical treatment for teeth grinding, or treatment intended to stop the grinding altogether, may not be common or easily achievable, it does not mean some key questions should not be asked in relation to “why” is a child grinding.
Grinding during sleep is a compensation of the body to resolve some type of stress. This may be social or emotional stress due to significant changes in the child’s life, but it could also be a compensation related to disordered breathing during sleep. Sleep is a key marker for a child’s overall wellbeing and development. When kids are deprived of sleep, numerous challenges can present during the day reducing the child’s overall quality of life.
Some factors to consider that could lead to teeth grinding from disordered breathing include poor tongue posture due to a tongue tie, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, chronic allergies, chronic open mouth-breathing, or numerous other factors. It may be worth a conversation with your child’s primary care provider to determine if your child’s sleep patterns and sleep quality warrant further conversation.
Check out the video below from Dr. Kennedy to hear more about the question of grinding the teeth at night!