Teething is a natural part of a baby’s development, but it can sometimes lead to teeth grinding, known as bruxism. This is a common occurrence, with around 20 to 30 percent of children grinding their teeth or clenching their jaw. It often happens during sleep or as a response to stress. While it’s not an urgent issue, as a parent, it’s essential to address your baby’s bruxism early on to prevent potential tooth damage and decay.
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Why Does My Baby Grind Their Teeth?
There are several factors that can cause babies to grind their teeth. These include:
- A “slippery” bite due to few erupted teeth – when teeth are just starting to come in, there may not be enough teeth for them to make contact with each other.
- Discomfort caused by misaligned teeth.
- Stress or other sources of pain, such as earaches or headaches – if your baby is still teething, grinding their teeth together might be a subconscious way of relieving their pain.
Since babies are unable to communicate their discomfort, it can be challenging for parents to recognize when their child is in pain, especially if the grinding happens while they’re asleep. However, you may be able to hear the distinct sound of their teeth rubbing against each other.
Don’t panic – this is normal! There’s nothing wrong with your baby, and in most cases, bruxism will naturally resolve itself over time. However, there are a few methods you can try to alleviate or prevent tooth grinding, which we’ll explore below.
Symptoms of Teeth Grinding
If your baby has bruxism, you’ll likely notice intense grinding sounds at night or during naptime. You might also observe slight jaw clenching or teeth grinding while they’re awake, although this can be difficult to confirm. Other general symptoms that may indicate your child has bruxism include:
- Loud clicking or grinding sounds, particularly at night or while your baby is sleeping.
- Rhythmic clenching or tightening of the jaw.
- Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods, leading to crying during mealtimes.
- Tooth injuries.
- Gum swelling.
Problems Bruxism Can Cause
It can be challenging to determine if your baby is grinding their teeth while they’re asleep. Consulting a pediatric dentist can help confirm whether bruxism is occurring by assessing the condition of your baby’s teeth.
In the short term, bruxism in babies may lead to:
- Headaches: Your baby may experience pain around the ear area.
- Muscle aches: Jaw clenching can cause muscle soreness and stiffness.
- Tooth sensitivity: Grinding wears down enamel, making your child’s teeth more sensitive to temperature changes.
- Painful chewing: Your baby might have difficulty chewing food.
The long-term effects of bruxism in babies include:
- Chipped teeth: Continued clenching and grinding can cause teeth to break.
- Flattened teeth: Frequent grinding can eventually flatten a tooth.
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD): This disorder causes jaw pain and stiffness, making it difficult to chew or open the mouth fully. Prolonged tooth grinding can lead to TMD.
You’ll be relieved to know that bruxism is not a significant cause for concern. While it’s important to address it early to prevent potential tooth damage, the condition is not a major health risk for your baby, as most children outgrow teeth grinding naturally. In most cases, formal treatment is unnecessary. However, you can help your baby achieve a more restful sleep with some soothing techniques for relieving infant tooth grinding.
Give your baby a teething toy to ease their gums. There are various teethers available, including rubber or soft wood options, as well as designs made for soothing with ice. Alternatively, you can make a homemade teething remedy by dampening a cool washcloth for your baby to chew on.
How Chronic Bruxism Is Treated
If your baby is a chronic grinder, it may be best to seek treatment from a pediatric dentist. While it’s rare for a baby to develop temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder from frequent tooth grinding, it is possible and requires treatment. Other problems that may need addressing include chipped teeth, gum swelling, injuries, pain, soreness, earaches, and headaches in the temples.
If you suspect chronic bruxism, your dentist will examine your child’s teeth for patterns of wear consistent with the diagnosis. Aggressive bruxism often results from jaw misalignment, which causes specific wear areas on the enamel. If a medication or medical condition is suspected of contributing to your child’s bruxism, a pediatrician can help by adjusting current medications or prescribing appropriate treatment.
How to Stop a Baby From Grinding Their Teeth
For many babies, bruxism is unavoidable, but the good news is that it’s usually harmless and self-limiting. As babies grow and develop, teeth grinding tends to diminish naturally. There’s often no need to use remedies such as night guards, commonly used by adults, to prevent them from grinding their teeth.
While the sound of tooth grinding can be unpleasant, rest assured that it’s a common condition among growing babies and will likely decrease as your child gets more teeth. If you’re concerned, talk to your pediatric dentist about your baby’s bruxism. They can provide personalized advice and examine your baby’s teeth and jaw to ensure no harm has occurred.
Contact 5 WS for a Pediatric Consultation in Portland
If you have any concerns about your baby’s bruxism or any other questions related to child dentistry, 5 WS is here to help. With a focus on pediatric dentistry and orthodontics in the Portland area, we provide dedicated expertise and care to every family we serve. Schedule a pediatric consultation today – no referrals needed!
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