Bruxism in Children and adults: Signs, Symptoms, and treatment

Are you frustrated, and you don’t know how to stop your children from grinding their teeth? Does your child show signs of bruxism? Do you know the meaning of Bruxism?

Meaning of Bruxism

Bruxism is a condition where you or your child grinds, gnashes, or clenches their teeth. Essentially people with bruxism may unconsciously clench their teeth when they are awake – awake bruxism. On the other hand, sleep bruxism is a form of bruxism where a person clenches and grinds their teeth during sleep. Typically, sleep bruxism is a sleep-related movement disorder. If you or your child clench or grind your teeth during sleep, then you may have other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea – pauses in breathing – and snoring.

Now, you may have sleep bruxism, but you are unaware of it. In most cases, mild bruxism in children and adults will not require treatment. However, lengthy periods of bruxism in children or adults can lead to jaw problems, disorders, damaged teeth, and headaches. Typically, you can suffer from this condition for a long time before signs and symptoms begin to show.

Symptoms of Bruxism in Children and Adults

Unless you take a vigil and watch your child sleep the whole night, you will probably not discover bruxism in kids. The following are some of the indicators of bruxism in children and adults.

  • Chipping, flattening, looseness and fracturing. Typically, teeth grinding or clenching can lead to increased tooth breakage and strength. You may observe that your teeth are chipped and cracking. In addition, due to the grinding, the top of the crown may be flat.
  • Loud grinding or clenching of teeth that is enough to wake you or your partner from sleep. Though the grinding is loud, you might find them still enjoying sound sleep. Essentially, at this point, the person with bruxism cannot control their condition. This is a severe case, and you should report it for medical care immediately.
  • Cracks on the tooth enamel that leads to exposure of the internal layers of your tooth. Normally, this occurs after a long time of bruxism.
  • High sensitivity and increased tooth pain. Bruxism in children and adults leads to worn-out enamels. This makes your tooth more sensitive to heat or cold, thereby causing increased sensitivity and frequent toothaches.
  • Tightness in the jaw and failure to close or open your jaw completely. Long durations of clenching your teeth might cause a jaw lock. Essentially, you will fail to engage in simple tasks such as eating, talking continuously, and laughing. Typically, this is due to the lengthy exposure your jaw had on grinding and clenching.
  • Sleep disruption. As already pointed out, bruxism in children or adults could be among other disorders. Therefore, you might find yourself or your child waking up in the middle of the night. Childhood bruxism tends to cause pain in the jaw or ears. Therefore, your child might report painful ears or jaw when they wake up.
  • Sore neck, jaw, and painful face. This especially happens if a person with bruxism fails to turn during sleep.
  • Pain around the ear area. This pain feels like an earache. However, you will find out that your ear does not pain.
  • A dull headache that originates from the temple and settles on your forehead. You might also experience this problem if you have a habit of chewing gum or other substances for many hours.
  • Tissue damage in your cheek.
  • Biting tongue in sleep

Types of bruxism

Bruxism mainly exists in two major categories. Essentially, you can determine the type of your bruxism by the time of day it occurs. The two categories are:

  • Awake bruxism. Essentially, this is daytime teeth grinding that happens obliviously. If you have daytime teeth grinding disorder, you might not have sleep bruxism. It is, however, possible to suffer from both day and night time teeth grinding disorders. You might also find yourself clenching your teeth without a particular reason.
  • Sleep bruxism. Also called night time teeth grinding, this disorder occurs in your sleep. Most of the time, you will be unaware of the condition until you see the symptoms or your partner informs you.

Why Do My Teeth Hurt at Night?

The available research on adult and childhood bruxism is inconclusive on the exact cause of the disorder. However, many researchers have concluded that bruxism could be caused by a combination of genetic factors, physical and psychological. Doctors also believe that awake bruxism mainly results from emotional stress such as anxiety, frustration, anger, or tension. You might also develop awake bruxism as a coping mechanism or habit during a moment of deep concentration. Sleep bruxism, on the other hand, has sleep-related causes. Other bruxism causes include:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Lifestyle practices such as smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, or caffeine use.
  • Sleep apnea, sleep talking, or snoring. Sleep apnea essentially affects your breathing patterns when you sleep. Together with snoring and sleep talking, you can develop bruxism as a coping mechanism.
  • Frustration and stress. According to American Dental Association, stress is a major factor in bruxism development.
  • Medication. If you have a habit of taking medications such as antidepressants, you might experience bruxism as a side effect. In addition, people with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease might experience bruxism.
    While you cannot directly identify bruxism causes through conclusive evidence, people with sleep apnea and snore are mainly at risk of developing this disorder.

Bruxism Risk Factors

  • Age. Age is one of the major causes of bruxism in child. A 10 months old grinding teeth is a common occurrence. Essentially, bruxism in kids is bound to occur due to their age. However, it goes away when adulthood sets in.
  • Type of personality. If you are a competitive, aggressive, or hyperactive person, you are at risk of developing bruxism.
  • Family history. Genetic and family history is also one of the causes of bruxism in child. If you have a family member who suffers from bruxism, you are also at risk of developing bruxism. This is common if you descend from a family member with a history of bruxism.
  • Other disorders. If you suffer from disorders such as dementia, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, night terrors, epilepsy, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, you are at risk of developing this condition.

Does Bruxism Lead to Complications?

Most cases of bruxism do not cause complications. However, if you suffer from severe bruxism, you may experience the following complications.

  • Extreme damage to your teeth, crowns, and jaw. These damages might be so severe that they may need teeth restoration.
  • Excruciating jaw and facial pain
  • Severe headaches
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders. These disorders cause clicking sounds when you open or close your mouth.


In most cases, your dentist will check your child for signs of bruxism during dental visits. Normally, when the dentist identifies indicative signs of bruxism, they will keep tabs on the changes in the teeth. This happens over some time when you go for your regular dental checkups. Typically, the dentist will evaluate you for bruxism by asking about your daily routines, medications, and sleeping habits. To diagnose the extent of the disorder, the dentist will check you or your child for:

  • Jaw muscle tenderness
  • Dental abnormalities such as missing or broken teeth
  • Damage to your teeth that include the jaw bone and the cheeks. Usually, they might have to use an X-ray machine to achieve conclusive results.
    A dental exam may also detect other problems that lead to similar signs and symptoms, such as the TMJ –temporomandibular joint – disorders.

Once the dentist identifies the main cause of your child’s bruxism, they will refer you to the relevant specialist. For instance, if you suffer from sleep bruxism, a sleep medicine expert will conduct more tests on you. This will include a sleep study that evaluates you or your child for teeth grinding episodes. In addition, they will determine whether your or your child has sleep apnea. If your disorder results from psychological issues, you will get a referral to a licensed counselor or therapist. Let us look at the various approaches that your dentist can use to treat bruxism.

1. Dental Approaches

Normally, dental approaches preserve your teeth from wear. However, these approaches may not stop bruxism. They include:

  • Mouthguards and splints. Splints and mouth guards keep the teeth separated to avoid damage during grinding and clenching. Most of them come from soft materials or hard acrylic and fit on your lower or upper jaw.
  • Dental correction. Typically, if your bruxism is severe and causes tooth sensitivity, your dentist might recommend dental correction. The correction might involve reshaping the chewing surfaces or using dental crowns to correct the damage.

2. Medication

In general, the use of medication to treat bruxism is not very effective. There is also a need for more research in determining the effectiveness of medication in treating bruxism. Medications used to treat this disorder include:

  • Botox injections. Botox is a form of botulinum toxin. Injections from this toxin can treat people with severe symptoms. It is especially helpful when your child does not respond to other treatments.
  • Muscle relaxant. Muscle relaxants are usually prescribed for a short period. Essentially, you or your child gets to take the relaxant before going to bed.
  • Anxiety and stress medication. If your bruxism arises from anxiety or stress, your dental provider may recommend antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication. Essentially, these medications are to help you deal with emotional problems that could be causing bruxism.

3. Other Approaches

Apart from medication and dental approaches, your dentist might use the following methods to treat your disorder.

  • Behavioral change therapy. Normally, bruxism is a behavior that you develop depending on certain factors. Therefore, it can be treated through a change therapy where you learn proper jaw and mouth positions.
  • Biofeedback. If it is difficult to change your habits, your doctor might recommend biofeedback. This is a technique that uses monitoring equipment and procedures to help you control your jaw muscle activity.
  • Anxiety and stress management. If your disorder results from stress or anxiety, you can benefit from stress management techniques. These techniques help you to relax and ease the anxiety. A good example of these techniques is meditation. In addition, you might need to consult a therapist for help.

Treating Associated Disorders

Causes of bruxism in children and adults could sometimes be disorders that arise from other conditions. Therefore, bruxism can be treated by separately treating these conditions. The best treatment for bruxism include:

  • Change of drugs if the cause of your bruxism is medication. Normally, your doctor will prescribe different medications or require you to stop using a particular type of drug.
  • Addressing disorders such as snoring, sleep apnea, and sleep talking can also help to treat bruxism.
  • If you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease and have bruxism, your doctor may recommend treating the condition to eliminate the disorder.

Treating Bruxism Through Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies

In most cases, bruxism will not require medical treatment. However, practice simple self-care exercises to ensure that the disorder does not graduate to severe levels.

  • Eliminate stress by listening to music, taking a warm bath, and taking a jog. This will help you to relax and reduce the risk of bruxism.
  • Keep stimulating substances away in the evening. For instance, you should avoid caffeinated drinks or alcohol during your evening.
  • Observe good sleeping habits. This is especially great for treating bruxism in children. Therefore, you should ensure that your baby gets a good night’s sleep to keep away bruxism.
  • Ask your sleeping partner for help. Normally, you may never know about your grinding sounds unless somebody tells you. Therefore, you should talk to your partner about any clicking or grinding sound that you might make during sleep. This will help in diagnosing your problem in time.
  • Regularize your dental visits and exams. A dental exam helps you to identify breakages, chipping, and cracks in your teeth. In addition, it helps identify flattening that might develop from bruxism. Once the dentist identifies the disorder, they will identify the cause and give you treatment in time.


Bruxism is one disorder that can make your life quite uncomfortable. Now you understand all about bruxism in kids and adults, it is time to take action. If you need a pediatric dentist in North Hollywood, look no further. We offer the best treatment for bruxism, in addition to teaching you how to make babies stop grinding their teeth. You can get in touch by consulting our kids dentist in North Hollywood today.