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Kids' Teeth Grinding Usually Stops Around Age 9 or 10 - But Not Always

Image of A child receives dental treatment during the “Give Kids a Smile” day event March 9, 2019, held by the 375th Dental Squadron clinic on Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Children registered for the event were given the chance to receive cleanings, fillings, and more at no cost to their parents. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Isaiah Gonzalez, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs). A child receives dental treatment during the “Give Kids a Smile” day event March 9, 2019, held by the 375th Dental Squadron clinic on Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Children registered for the event were given the chance to receive cleanings, fillings, and more at no cost to their parents. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Isaiah Gonzalez, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs)

Do you ever see or hear your child grinding his or her teeth or clenching his or her jaws during the day or at night while sleeping? 

That’s a potentially serious health problem. But the good news is that dental experts say the problem usually goes away on its own. 

“We want to put parents at ease about their child’s grinding and clenching,” said Army Lt. Col. Diana Weber, the commander of the dental clinic at Fort Gordon, Georgia. “The majority of it resolves over time, usually by the time kids are 9 or 10 years’ old.” 

Yet in some severe cases, the issue – technically known as bruxism – may require a combination of both dental and medical care. 

If you’re concerned, you should go to your child’s primary health care provider to find out if there are any reasons for the grinding and clenching that you might not know about. 

Anxiety and stress can be a cause. Key things to watch for include whether your child has behavioral issues, can’t focus during the day, or if the grinding or clenching disrupts sleep, Weber said. 

Teeth grinding or clenching also can cause headaches during the day, said Army Lt. Col. Walter Dimalanta, Fort Gordon’s program director for prosthodontics. 

Parents may also want to talk to their child’s dentist to see if the child has pain in the hinge of the upper and lower jaw or the major muscles surrounding the jaws. 

Your child may overwork the muscles around the jaw so much that it causes spasms or muscle contractions, Dimalanta said. 

A dentist can determine whether the child’s teeth are misaligned, which is also thought to be a cause of teeth grinding. 

Need a Night Guard?  

If your child has teeth that aren’t lined up in the mouth, you might want to take them to a pediatric dentist or orthodontist. 

Orthodontists specialize in realigning teeth properly. If your child is under age 11, the orthodontist might recommend using a hard night guard or bite guard to reduce muscle activity and lessen grinding and clenching. Night guards help reduce muscle activity in and around the jaw, Dimalanta explained. 

If your child’s teeth grinding continues past age 11, the child may need a mouth guard to lessen the damage over time to preserve their permanent teeth, Weber said. 

TRICARE covers night guards when medically necessary and well documented. 

Further Treatment Procedures 

Sometimes, children’s teeth grinding requires further treatment. 

Teeth grinding among young children can be a concern because baby teeth have softer tooth enamel compared to permanent teeth so they wear down faster. 

Children who still have baby teeth may need to get caps and crowns on them to restore function, Dimalanta said. 

“If a child has a collapsed bite, we can restore the normal bite with artificial crowns and caps over the baby teeth until their permanent teeth erupt,” Dimalanta explained. 

TRICARE guidelines for dental health say parents pay 50% of the cost within the MHS dental network for this procedure. 

The dentist can do the procedure several ways. Crowns are typically done as an outpatient procedure. But there are a variety of options used to place crowns, based on the number of crowns needed, the child’s age, and the child’s behavior. The dentist will determine whether the child requires just anesthetic, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), sedation, or will need to go to the operating room for crown placement. 

Crowns placed on baby teeth come out when the baby teeth are replaced by their permanent teeth.

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