A concerned parent posted on our Twitter: "My young son grinds his teeth in his sleep… is this bad for his teeth and what can I do about it?" Dr. James Mallory, one of our Smile Generation dentists, replied:

Many parents in my practices are often concerned with their child grinding during sleep. There are many theories related to the cause of pediatric bruxism (teeth grinding). They are related to psychological components such as stress, sleeping disorders or the personality type of the child.

Stress is usually the main culprit and there are a vast many reasons someone may be under stress. Some common high stress situations may include moving to a new environment, demands at school or home, or divorce. Sleeping disorders may include sleep walking, talking in your sleep, nightmares and bed wetting. Another interesting theory relates to pressure changes in the inner ear, much like being on an airplane upon take-off or landing.. The child may move his or her jaw back and forth to relieve the pressure change.

Children with malocclusion have teeth that do not line up correctly or are crowded. Their inability to bite their teeth together properly while chewing and swallowing may cause them to grind their teeth while sleeping. In these cases early orthodontic intervention may be necessary.

Keep in mind that the child’s mouth and teeth are constantly changing and growing. Therefore pediatric bruxism does not usually require treatment. However, wearing a mouth guard may be indicated in cases of severe attrition, where the baby teeth and permanent teeth have been affected. Damage to the permanent dentition is irreversible and could have serious consequences in the future.

Fortunately most children outgrow bruxism. Grinding decreases between the ages 6-9 and children tend to stop by the age of 12. Consult with your pediatric dentist for a definitive diagnoses and treatment if needed.

Ask A Dentist Featuring Dr. James Mallory, Jr. DMD

Dr. James Mallory practices at Festival Dental Group and Orthodontics, Arrowhead Dental Group and Orthodontics, EveryKidsDentist @ Arrowhead, Canyon Modern Dentistry and Orthodontics, and EveryKidsDentist @ Canyon in Arizona. He is also a regular contributor to Arizona Health and Living Magazine