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Teeth grinding (bruxism) in children

3-minute read

Key facts

  • Teeth grinding or clenching is also known as 'bruxism'.
  • You may notice the sound of teeth grinding when your child is asleep — these may be grinding noises or tapping sounds.
  • Most children stop grinding their teeth on their own, usually around the age of 9-10 years.

What is teeth grinding?

Some children grind their teeth or clench their jaw, especially during sleep. The medical term for this is 'bruxism'.

What are the symptoms and signs of teeth grinding in children?

You may notice the sound of teeth grinding when your child is asleep. These may be grinding noises or tapping sounds.

Sometimes children who grind their teeth during sleep also:

  • grind their teeth during the day
  • bite their nails or gnaw on pencils and toys
  • chew the inside of their cheeks

Why do children grind their teeth?

The causes of teeth grinding in children are not properly understood. It may be related to stress and anxiety.

What are the effects of teeth grinding?

Some children who grind their teeth get:

  • headaches
  • face and jaw muscle pain

Sometimes, teeth grinding can lead to problems with your child's teeth. It can:

  • wear down tooth enamel
  • chip or crack the teeth
  • increase the sensitivity of the teeth to heat and cold
  • cause toothaches

How is teeth grinding treated?

Most children stop grinding their teeth on their own. This usually happens around the age of 9 or 10 years. For many children, you can keep an eye on the situation and wait for them to naturally stop grinding their teeth.

Relaxation techniques may be recommended for young children with bruxism. If you think your child grinds their teeth because of stress, it might help to relax them before bedtime, for example by:

  • reading a story or playing music
  • giving them a warm bath
  • talking to them about possible sources of stress in their lives

It may also help to avoid caffeine (such as in chocolate) before bedtime.

Your doctor may also recommend your child sees a physiotherapist.

Sometimes, if grinding is causing tooth damage, your dentist may suggest a special soft mouth splint for protection.

When to seek help

If you suspect your child is grinding their teeth, visit your child's dentist. They can check your child's teeth for any problems.

You should also see your doctor for advice on treatments for teeth grinding.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2023

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