Q: My eight-year-old son often grinds his teeth while sleeping. Should I be concerned and is there anything we can do to prevent it?
A: Teeth grinding is common, almost always stops with time and rarely causes problems. The exact cause is not known. One theory is that it’s a soothing reaction to discomfort in the jaw joint caused by the growth of the teeth and jaw.
Acute pain in the facial nerve (which runs close to this joint) caused by teething or ear pain also can lead to discomfort. If this is the case, all that’s necessary is a follow-up by your dentist to make certain the tooth structure is maintained. I’ve seen children fitted with mouthguards to prevent grinding, but this can lead to a whole new set of frustrations for the child and parents.
There’s research under way to determine whether grinding is related to some sleep disorders. Last but no less important is the relationship between stress and grinding. If this habit is a sign of anxiety, please try and sort out the cause of the stress and deal with it. It’s essential that anxieties be dealt with as they only grow if ignored.