Bruxism, otherwise known as teeth grinding, is common in children and often occurs during sleep or while a child is under stress. Learn how to deter teeth grinding in babies.
Teeth grinding is a common, yet frustrating, habit that often develops at a young age. While most babies outgrow it, others continue to grind their teeth until late childhood. In fact, 2 to 3 out of every 10 children will grind or clench, according to Kids Health.
My youngest daughter was a nightly grinder. The problem started during infancy and didn’t let up until she was nearly 5 years old. While her case of bruxism did not leave behind any lasting complications, the grinding sound drove me crazy. What I didn’t know back then was that teeth grinding can often be diminished with a few simple tips.
“Though studies have been done, no one knows why bruxism happens,” says Theresa Roberts, author of ABC’s of Bumps & Bruises. “But in some cases, children may grind because the top and bottom teeth aren’t aligned properly. Others do it as a response to pain, such as an earache or teething. Children might grind their teeth as a way to ease the pain, just as they rub a sore muscle.”
Many children stop grinding their teeth when they start losing their baby teeth. Until then, try to make your baby comfortable and have your pediatric dentist check for signs of excessive wear.
What the Experts Say
“It is very common for children to grind their teeth. Many parents can attest to this fact. The reason they grind their teeth is the same as for adults: the biting surfaces of the teeth are not in harmony with their jaw joints.”
Stop Headaches Now, Jerry Simin
“Like head banging or rolling, hair pulling or thumb sucking, teeth grinding is often a way some baby’s discharge tension. To minimize grinding, reduce the tension in your baby’s life when possible, and be sure that he has plenty of other outlets for releasing it – such as physical activity and toys that encourage banging.”
What to Expect the First Year, Heidi Eisenberg Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, Sandee Eisenberg Hathaway, Sharon Mazel
“Bruxism may well be a matter of both mind and mouth. Anxiety and stress play a role in some cases. In other individuals, the causes include missing, elongated, or poorly filled teeth as well as minor defects, such as rough cusp ends. For them, dental repair work can eliminate or reduce nighttime grinding.”
How to Sleep Like a Baby, Wake Up Refreshed, and Get More Out of Life, Dianne Hales
“The child gnashes, grinds or clenches the teeth mostly at night. It is common in the age group of one to five years. The older children also suffer from it. The exact cause is not known. It is most likely an expression of suppressed anger, tension or discontentment. Most parents believe that it is due to worm infestation but there is no scientific basis to support it.”
Baby Care, Dr. S. Mohapatra
“Children and adolescents can grind their teeth in any stage of sleep and at any time of the night. They may also do it while they are falling asleep. Most of the time teeth grinding doesn’t cause any harm and is temporary. However, some children who grind their teeth may eventually develop problems, such as jaw pain or tooth damage over time.”
A Clinical Guide to Pediatric Sleep, Jodi A. Mindell, Judith A. Owens
Ways to Stop Teeth Grinding in Babies
While more common in older children, babies too can experience stress. Stress can occur for a wide range of reasons, such as switching to a new daycare or changing your baby’s daily routine.
If you suspect that your baby’s bruxism is caused by stress, take the necessary steps to address the issues at hand. A calming bedtime routine is a great start. Start the evening with a quiet, warm bath, followed by a massage to relax your baby before bed.
Teething typically begins between four and seven months of old, according to Baby Centre. As new teeth emerge, your baby’s gums may become red and inflamed. During this period, it’s not uncommon for babies to grind their teeth. Giving your baby teething toys to gnaw on can help deter the urge to grind.
There are several types of teethers to choose from:
Natural Rubber Teethers
Soft natural rubber is safe for little mouths and offers just the right amount of resistance to soothe teething babies. Choose a teether made from 100 percent natural rubber, such as the Natursutten Teether Toy. The ecologically sustainable toy is made from the rubber of a Hevea brasilienis tree and contains no harmful ingredients.
An ice cold teething toy may be just what your baby needs to provide fast pain relief for sore gums. Just throw a teething toy, such as Dr. Brown’s Watermelon Coolee Teether, into the freezer and let it chill. The triangular shape of the watermelon teether reaches all parts of the jaw to ease discomfort.
Wooden teethers are highly durable and naturally anti-microbial. The hard surface of the wood provides a resilient surface for your baby to gnaw and you never have to worry about splintering or dangerous chemicals as these teethers are completely organic. Some can also be put into the refrigerator, such as the handcrafted Organic Wooden Elephant Teether.
Silicone Teething Necklaces
Perfect for at home or on-the-go, silicone teething necklaces allow your baby to maintain hands-free chewing whenever the urge develops. Colorful teethers, such as the Itzy Ritzy Baby Teether, also double as a toy. The teether is made of soft silicone and designed in rainbow colors to catch your baby’s eye.
While the sound of teeth grinding may be like nails on a chalkboard, know that it’s usually not harmful. If you’re concerned about the health of your baby’s teeth due to chronic teeth grinding, talk to a pediatric dentist.