One of the most common questions I get as a pediatric dentist has to do with kids grinding their teeth at night. If you have a child who does this, you know that the sound is horrible. Imagine that you hear nails on a chalkboard for hours at a time!
In the past, most dentist would tell you that kids who grind their teeth will grow out of it and there really is no reason to worry. This is partially still true but, as in any part of life, things can change, and knowledge base can increase. These days, my advice to parents is really tailored to what the child’s other issues are. Some children do grow out of the grinding as a natural part of jaw development. However, if the parent answers yes to a few of the follow questions, then there is a reason to investigate further.
Is the child overweight? Does the child have asthma? Does the child suffer from a recent cold? Does the child have a narrow airway? Does the child also snore? Is the child a mouth breather? Does the child often wake up feeling tired? Does the child have a tongue tie?
If the child’s sleep is disordered, it becomes more vital to investigate the cause of the grinding. A referral to their primary care physician or ENT specialist is warranted. There is an ap called Snore Lab that parents can download to record their child’s sleep for the night. This is very useful information to take to a referral appointment. Sometimes these children are diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is something that is being diagnosed more often in children and parents report back to me how surprised they are that they didn’t catch it sooner. Tooth grinding can be one aspect of this. Once airway issues are resolved either via tonsillectomy, orthodontic expansion of the airway, frenectomy to release the tongue so it can sit at the roof of the mouth properly or other treatments, the child is able to get a good night’s sleep and the grinding habit has mostly subsided.
The next time your child has a dental appointment, don’t hesitate to ask about any dental habits your child has; you might be surprised as how much a pediatric dentist can help point you in the right direction toward a good night’s sleep for everyone!
Dr. Jamie Sahouria is Rohnert Park’s only full time, board certified pediatric dentist. She works at 1303 Medical Center Drive, where she and partner doctors provide dental care and braces for kids and adults. Dr. Jamie is a Rohnert Park native and is a proud graduate of The Ranch. She can be reached via her website at www.BrushFlosssSmile.com