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A parents' guide to bruxism in kids

Say “lights out” to nighttime grinding

Does your child grind his or her teeth at night? It's a common condition among children, affecting anywhere from 6% to half of all kids, according to a 2014 review. Most teeth grinding, tapping and clenching (known as bruxism) happens after kids doze off to sleep. That can make it hard to know it's happening. But with this guide, you'll learn how to recognize your kids' grinding and what to do about it.

Does your child grind?

Signs of teeth grinding can vary, but these are the top signs to look out for:

• Chipped teeth

• Fractures or "craze lines" on the teeth

• Worn-down enamel

• Sensitivity to hot, cold or pressure

• Unexplained headaches or earaches

• Jaw pain

Not sure if your child grinds? Take a listen when your child is sleeping.

I think my child grinds her teeth. What do I do?

If you suspect your child has nighttime bruxism, schedule an appointment with your child's dentist. Your child's dentist can provide a diagnosis and explain treatment options, such as getting a custom nightguard.

Keep up regular appointments so that your child's dentist can watch out for signs of dental damage.

What causes bruxism?

Bruxism can be triggered by stress, anxiety, hyperactivity and physical pain. Kids are more likely to grind their teeth if their teeth are misaligned or growing in.

How is bruxism treated?

Your child's dentist may recommend a custom nightguard. This dental device, fit to your child's mouth, protects teeth from damage. Check your dental plan to see if it covers occlusal guards (the technical name for nightguards).

What else can I do?

If you suspect your child's grinding is linked to stress, talk to your child to identify and address the sources of stress.

You can also help your child relax before bedtime:

• Avoid caffeine. Sources of caffeine in kids' diets can include chocolate, coffee-flavored ice cream or yogurt, tea and vitamin water.

• Designate 30 minutes before bed for calming down. Read your child a story, or play relaxing music.

• Put screens away. Turn off electronic devices two hours before bedtime. Screen time can increase anxiety and disrupt the natural sleep cycle.

By knowing what to look for and working with your child’s dentist, you can help your kids stop grinding their teeth and get back to peaceful sleep.