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Toddlers and Bruxism: What Parents Want to Know

Portrait of a young child lying on pillow

So, you have noticed your toddler grinding his or her teeth at night while sleeping. You have observed that his or her mouth is constantly moving and making clacking or grinding sounds. This habit can be bothersome and irritating, but should you also be alarmed?

Bruxism or teeth grinding can happen anytime during your life for a number of reasons. For some children, they start to grind when they reach six months or later and their teeth start to come in. This may happen again when they reach age five and their permanent teeth start to arrive.

While most toddlers eventually outgrow this habit, there are also instances when it’s necessary to seek additional treatments to make sure your child’s teeth are protected.

You may be wondering, why do some toddlers grind their teeth?

Dentists do not always know the exact reason behind a toddler’s bruxism. But some of the most common reasons include these:

  • Teeth are not properly aligned
  • Your toddler does it to relieve pain that may be caused by teething or even an aching ear
  • The grinding is a result of a medical condition like cerebral palsy

For older children, bruxism can also be their way of dealing with stress or anxiety.

What are the effects of teeth grinding?

Teeth grinding is not really considered harmful, especially because most toddlers grow out of it. Most of the time, a parent is worried because of the sound the grinding makes. However, there are some children who experience jaw pain because of bruxism. If your toddler can’t talk yet, watch out for signs like constant rubbing of jaw which can indicate pain or discomfort.

Should you take your child to a dentist or a doctor?

If you notice that your child is grinding his or her teeth almost every day, then it’s a good idea to visit your child’s dentist.

The dentist will check your child’s teeth for any signs of wear and tear like chipped enamel or tooth. Your child’s dentist will also see if your little one’s teeth are misaligned, which can be the reason your child is teeth grinding in the first place.

Are there any treatments for bruxism?

In older kids, bruxism that causes either misalignment or pain might require your child to wear a night guard. Night guards are thin and flexible plastic pieces that are worn over the upper gums so the teeth will be protected from damage. However, toddlers’ teeth are always changing and that can affect the way night guards fit. Of course, there is also the problem of getting a toddler to wear a night guard which may be hard to understand for your little one.

If there’s one thing you should not do, that is waking up your toddler when he or she grinds teeth. Aside from making the symptoms worse, it can also get in the way of your child getting a good night’s sleep.

The best treatment for bruxism in toddlers is no treatment at all! But if you feel that the teeth grinding is caused by anxiety or stress, you might want to consider establishing a calming routine at bedtime. You can try reading or singing songs – any activity that will keep your child calm before falling asleep.

If your child’s bruxism doesn’t go away completely by the time he or she is old enough, you can have a night guard custom fitted for him or her. Dental Laboratory Associates can make one for your child. We’ll refer you to one of our partner dentists near you.



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