Teething is a trial for any little one and their parents. The discomfort of developing teeth is painful, and there is little you can do to soothe your aching child other than offer a little of Wellements teething oil. Still, after a few years and coming away with a healthy set of pearly whites, you notice your toddler grinding teeth almost subconsciously.
After all the time pushing through the pain, why does your little one start grinding their teeth? Is it normal? The formal name for repetitive teeth grinding, gnashing, or clenching is bruxism, and it can occur in an estimated three out of 10 children.
What Is Causing Teeth Grinding in Toddlers?
The underlying causes of teeth grinding or bruxism are not entirely known. That said, most dental experts argue bruxism results from several factors, including teething, the development of permanent teeth, and anxiety or stress.
Bruxism in children five or six months old likely results from teething and goes unnoticed because the teeth rub against the gums, causing little noise. The pressure from clenching and rubbing the jaws together can help with discomfort. Grinding at this early stage of dental development usually lasts only briefly and often goes away on its own.
The development of permanent teeth can also cause a child to grind their teeth. The new sensations and differences in their bite can motivate the grinding response. Most children stop on their own with their complete set of permanent teeth.
Behavioral and psychological responses can also cause toddler teeth grinding. When children experience abnormal stress or anxiety levels may unintentionally turn to clenching and grinding their teeth as a coping method. Some children will grind their teeth in their sleep.
Effects of Teeth Grinding
Bruxism usually goes away on its own and is not often harmful. The issue can bother siblings or parents who assume a child is purposely grinding their teeth. Most children don't realize they are doing it.
Despite most cases of mild bruxism, children may experience headaches, chipped teeth, sensitive teeth, or oral pain in more severe occurrences. If you notice your toddler grinding their teeth in their sleep or while playing, schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist for a checkup.
If a dentist finds evidence of damage, they may prescribe a night guard. Night guards are similar to mouthpieces many athletes wear; they are molded from the child's teeth and help prevent nighttime grinding.
Ways To Get Them To Stop Grinding Their Teeth
Confronting your little one about teeth grinding is often a mistake. When you draw attention to the issue, some children may start grinding their teeth more frequently to get attention. It is better to find the root cause of the problem and make a concerted effort to resolve it.
In most cases, the problem will disappear with little intervention, but sometimes it is symptomatic of emotion. Stress and anxiety can increase the occurrences and severity of bruxism. You can help your child cope with stress in healthier ways by:
- Creating and adhering to relaxing bedtime routines
- Teaching them meditation or yoga
- Helping your child get outside and active
- Talking through stressful or fearful situations.
When You Should Be Concerned and See a Dentist
You should schedule a dental appointment for bruxism if you hear your child grinding their teeth throughout the week. For little ones to grind their teeth occasionally is OK, but if it occurs on most days during the week, they may cause significant damage to their teeth. A dentist will look for wear or damage and give advice.
Bruxism or teeth grinding is common; in most cases, it is harmless and resolves independently. Still, if your child grinds their teeth in their sleep or experiences bruxism symptoms often, schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist.