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Does Your Child Grind His Teeth?

How To Determine If Your Child's Teeth Grinding Is Serious

Have you ever crept into your child's room at night expecting the sweet sounds of slumber, but instead been greeted by the cringe-inducing noise of grinding teeth?

"Bruxism," as teeth grinding is officially called, is a fairly common phenomenon for children. Experts estimate that about a quarter of all children do it, and most of them are under age 5.

If your child has ever come down to the breakfast table complaining of a sore jaw or headache, she may be grinding her teeth at night, but dentists say that most of the time there is no need to worry.

"It sounds worse than nails on a chalk board," says Warren Brill, DMD, a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland Dental School. "But the vast majority of kids outgrow the habit without doing any damage to their permanent teeth," he says.

Your child's dentist will notice at her regular check-ups if the grinding is causing worn spots on her teeth, called "facets." In that case, the dentist might recommend having your child wear a custom-made bite guard at night to protect her teeth. Sometimes a child will grind the teeth down so far that they need to be repaired with a composite material that's similar to the material used for fillings.

No one knows exactly why so many children grind their teeth, but it may because when the top and bottom teeth aren't aligned, children unconsciously grind them to make their bite more comfortable. Another possible cause is stress, but there are no studies that prove there's a relationship between stress and teeth-grinding in children -- adults are another story!

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