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Oregon Family Magazine

Children grinding teeth? Don’t worry!

02/03/2017 ● By Sandy Kauten
Children grind their teeth for a variety of reasons, including emotional stress and an unbalanced bite. However, in most cases there is no obvious cause. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is seen in about 40 percent of children under the age of 17.

“For parents, the real concern comes from the loud sound children make when they grind their teeth,” said Dr. Tara Paluska, a general dentist at the Kaiser Permanente Valley River Dental Office in Eugene. “It sounds awful! However, grinding in children rarely affects their quality of life and often stops as they get older.”

Dr. Paluska said a dentist may want to prescribe a mouth guard, or refer a child to a jaw joint specialist if the child is complaining about the following:

  • A sore jaw
  • Continued pain in one or multiple teeth with no cavities
  • Constant headaches
  • Continued ear aches without ear infection
  • Pain in cheek muscles

“For daytime teeth grinders, parents can help by making the child aware of the habit,” Dr. Paluska said. “They can gently remind their children to relax their jaw when grinding is observed.”

For the nighttime grinder, Dr. Paluska said there is little that will stop the habit, as the child is not aware he or she is grinding. Talking with the child’s pediatrician about stress and anxiety management may be beneficial for older children.

“Most often, I will monitor the child and any wear on the teeth and intervene if needed. I don’t usually recommend night guards in younger children because they don’t (and often won’t) wear them. Also, as they start getting adult teeth, the guard will not fit anymore,” Dr. Paluska said, adding that once all the adult teeth are in, she recommends a night guard if grinding is still occurring.

If you are concerned about your child’s teeth grinding, Dr. Paluska recommends having a dentist evaluate the habit and provide age-appropriate recommendations.

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente Dental at