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Why Do Children Grind Their Teeth While Sleeping?


  • For children with bruxism, in addition to dental health issues, they may experience problems with snoring as well, which can result in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
  • In some children, teeth grinding may not be audible, hence providing no signal for parents to be aware of the problem. Parents should, therefore, pay close attention and observe their child while he or she is sleeping.
  • Treatment may involve the use of a mouth guard, for which parents should have their child checked by a dentist in order to receive proper diagnosis and treatment.


Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is not only a problem in adults, but is an issue for children as well. Although dentists presently do not know the exact cause of bruxism, with proper evaluation and analysis, they have been able to identify some possible causes:

  • Mental and emotional state – Children may have anxiety or may be stressed or nervous about something.
  • Teeth grinding may be partially due to genetics; if a parent, sibling or family member have problems with bruxism, the child may have a higher risk or incidence of bruxism.
  • It may also be caused by body issues of the child, such as over-stimulation of the brain and/or the autonomic nervous system.
  • The child may be experiencing changes in their teeth, such as when their permanent teeth are coming in, or due to an abnormal bite or crooked teeth.
  • Certain medications, such as antidepressants, may also induce teeth-grinding (although drug-induced causes are more frequently found in adults than children).

For children with bruxism, other disorders and abnormal behaviors may be observed as well while sleeping. This includes bed-wetting, sleep-talking, sleep-walking and snoring, which may result in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Additionally, children with bruxism may also suffer from hyperactivity.

Harmful Effects of Teeth Grinding

may include frequent tooth sensitivity as well as chipping or fracturing of teeth until they eventually become broken or cracked. Mouth sores may also develop from the child biting his/her tongue or cheeks, or jaw joint pain which can eventually cause pain in the ear as well.

In addition to the various types of pain described above, bruxism may also cause fatigue or discomfort while chewing food, as well as frequent headaches. Continued grinding of the teeth while sleeping will also eventually cause the teeth to erode and be worn down, resulting in danger to the tooth structure and even penetrating the dental pulp.


Prevention of bruxism in children in some cases require a thorough diagnosis from a dentist, which may involve a mouth guard being prescribed for use while the child is sleeping. In some children, teeth grinding may not be audible, therefore providing no signal to make parents aware of the problem. If a child appears to clench his or her teeth tightly and/or frequently, parents should pay close attention and observe their child while he or she is sleeping.

Best Sleep Methods and Habits for Families with Children Suffering from Teeth-Grinding Issues

  • Children should sleep in a quiet, peaceful room, without bright or glaring lights, so that they can get a sound and restful sleep.
  • Don’t feed children a heavy meal within the 3 hours before they go to bed. You may have them drink some milk instead, as this will help them sleep better.
  • Keep children from doing strenuous or energizing activities too close to their bedtime as it could cause them to be unable to sleep.
  • Teach children to recognize their own evening routines, to go to bed on time, and to avoid watching TV or playing computer games at night, as these things can cause unnecessary excitement and therefore stimulate bruxism.
  • For children whose teeth are first coming in, they should have regular dental visits and receive proper checkups and care. If a child appears to have an abnormal bite or crooked teeth, it’s best to consult an orthodontist for corrective treatment.
  • In children whose permanent teeth have already come in or who are aged 6 years and over, a mouth guard may be worn at bedtime to help prevent teeth grinding.

While a total cure for bruxism may not have been discovered, parents can help a great deal by paying close attention and constantly observing and taking their child for regular visits to the dentist for diagnosis and treatment.

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Reungwut Ketpupong, D.D.S. Summary: Pediatric Dentistry Pediatric Dentistry