Six Common Causes of Teeth Grinding in Children Explained –

Children do different things in their sleep. As a parent, all you want to hear is the sound of your child having a good sleep. However, some parents hear their children grinding and gnashing their teeth, which is common in kids.

Around one-third of children grind their teeth during sleeping. Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a natural habit of children, especially those who are under 11 years of age.

What are the causes of teeth grinding in children? Let’s discuss them one by one.


A cause of teeth grinding in children is teething. Teeth grinding is not uncommon for infants whenever they are getting their first set of teeth. It is also common for children who are starting to get their permanent teeth. Rubbing the sharp edges of the teeth together can help relieve painful gums.

Children grind their teeth while sleeping whenever they are teething to relieve pain.


Another cause of teeth grinding in children is teeth malocclusion. During the day, when the top and bottom part of the teeth don’t fit together, the brain overrides the teeth and sends signals to fix the jawline. However, during the night, the brain keeps on trying to make the teeth fit together which will cause grinding in the process.

Improper alignment of the top and the bottom part of the teeth can cause children to grind their teeth to properly align them.


Stress, usually tension, is a cause of teeth grinding in children.

If a child is worried about an incoming exam at school or fights with a sibling or a parent, this can cause stress that might prompt jaw clenching and teeth grinding. A study conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on pre-schoolers showed that 36.8% of pre-schoolers who don’t get involved with others and experience preschool adjustments clench their teeth while sleeping. Emotional stress also increases the release of adrenaline hormones which may set off the clenching and grinding of teeth during sleep.

Because of stress and anxiety, children grind their teeth.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common disorder for children resulting to the grinding of their teeth. As the brain approaches deep sleep, all the muscles in the body start to relax. Once the jaw and tongue fully relax, they block the airway. Grinding the teeth somehow reopens the airway and helps children to breathe again.

Children grind their teeth during sleep to prevent restrictions of airflow during sleep apnea episodes.

Stomach Acid Reflux

Another cause of teeth grinding in children is stomach acid reflux in the esophagus.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is often misdiagnosed as teeth grinding. Acid reflux is associated with the demineralization action which results in dental enamel erosion. The pain from the stomach acid triggers a child to clench and grind his teeth.

A child with GERD grinds the teeth to decrease the amount of pain.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) causes children to grind and clench their teeth. IBS is not a disease but a group of symptoms that occur together. This includes abdominal pain or discomfort, cramping, diarrhea, and constipation. Children feel pain or discomfort when IBS occurs. As a result, they grind or rub together their teeth forcefully to ease the pain as they might rub a sore muscle.

To ease the pain and discomfort due to irritable bowel syndrome, children grind their teeth together.

Teeth Grinding Can Be Treated

Teeth grinding can be managed through treatment. If you suspect that your child suffers from teeth grinding, especially from sleep apnea, consult a dentist to undergo evaluation. The dentist is the best person to evaluate the extent of the wear and tear in the teeth, the jaw, and the gums, and to provide a remedy to offset any further damage.