My Baby Grinds Their Teeth: Is This Normal?

If you notice that your baby grinds their teeth, you may wonder why this behavior occurs. In this article, we'll explain it to you.
My Baby Grinds Their Teeth: Is This Normal?

Last update: 02 June, 2022

From the moment of birth, children undergo different changes and go through different stages of growth. This also includes adaptations of the oral cavity. That is why, if you discover that your baby grinds their teeth, you may wonder if this practice is normal or not.

This action is usually a type of exploration of the transformations of the dentition, but it can also be an indication of general or local conditions, such as bruxism.

In this article, we’ll tell you in detail why your baby grinds their teeth and what you should do about it.

Bruxism in children

Bruxism is the habit of clenching and grinding the teeth on a regular basis. This condition can affect infants, children, adolescents, and adults, both day and night.

It consists of a repetitive and exaggerated contraction of the chewing muscles, with no functional purpose. Therefore, it’s characteristic to see the area of the jaw contracted or to hear the grinding of the teeth.

The friction between the dental pieces causes their wear and tear and can also produce headaches and pain in the jaw, ear, and neck.

In general, babies and children grind their teeth during teething periods and most of these cases are mild and don’t require any treatment.

A baby girl biting her mom's shirt.
Teething in babies causes constant discomfort, which leads them to adopt certain habits in order to alleviate them. But it’s important that these habits aren’t prolonged over time.

Why does my baby grind their teeth?

As we’ve already mentioned, when a baby grinds their teeth, it’s usually to alleviate the discomfort of the eruption process. The first baby teeth begin to erupt into the mouth around 6 months of age and this stage ends around 2 or 3 years of age. Therefore, it’s common for little ones between these ages to make sounds of friction between their teeth.

When the first tips of the teeth appear, little ones play and explore these unknown elements inside their mouth. They try to discover new sensations and react to the novel experience.

Also, when babies rub their teeth during the eruption of a new tooth, they may do so to relieve the discomfort caused by the process.

The falling out of baby teeth and the appearance of permanent teeth is also a time when little ones brux. The wear and tear of the old elements and the growth of the jaws are necessary for the permanent teeth to find their place in the arch. And grinding is usually a symptom that accompanies this process.

In addition to these physiological issues, which lead babies and children to grind their teeth, there are other reasons that explain bruxism. And although the etiology of this habit isn’t always entirely clear, there are some factors that may favor its appearance:

  • Stress and anxiety. Some situations that provoke nervousness, fear, and stress in children can cause bruxism.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Dental malpositions.
  • Intestinal parasitosis. There is a controversy about whether these infections cause bruxism or not, but it’s one more factor to consider when determining the origin of the problem.

What to do if your baby grinds their teeth?

Many babies and children solve the problem of teeth grinding naturally, as it’s a temporary situation.

Once tooth eruption is over, the child gets used to the new situation and the habit will no longer be new. Therefore, as the molars and permanent teeth appear, the habit gradually decreases. Growth and the completion of tooth replacement lead to the situation being overcome without the need for intervention.

In any case, if you notice that your baby’s grinding is related to tooth eruption, you can offer him some safe objects to bite on. This way, they can relieve their discomfort without grinding their teeth. Chew toys made of different materials and cold cloths can be of great help at this stage.

Complications of bruxism during infancy are rare, but if you notice that your baby or child grind their teeth, the best thing to do is to monitor the situation.

It’s also a good idea to discuss the presence of this habit with your pediatric dentist during regular visits. The professional will be able to evaluate if the problem affects other structures, such as permanent teeth or the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), or if the teeth are very worn down as a result.

Some cases may require an intervention to avoid complications, such as sensitivity, dental malposition, or alterations in the TMJ. In these situations, it’s advisable to investigate the origin of the problem in order to act.

Detecting if there are dental or psychological factors that lead the child to bruxing and solving them is also part of the therapy. Therefore, orthodontic treatments may be a viable alternative.

Measures to reduce stress will also be necessary if anxiety is the trigger of the problem. Playing or practicing sports with the child, reading bedtime stories, or performing relaxation techniques are some ways to reduce the tension they’re handling.

In addition, the use of splints that cover the teeth can contribute to improving the situation. Physical therapy and muscle exercises to relax the jaw and neck may also be recommended on some occasions.

A child holding a dental splint.
Splints to exercise the bite are useful elements to avoid tooth wear and other complications of bruxism. But in addition to this, it’s necessary to treat the underlying condition that predisposes children to this habit.

Consult your pediatric dentist if your baby grinds their teeth

The sound that a baby makes when they grind their teeth can be quite disturbing. But as we told you, this is usually a temporary condition that goes away on its own with time.

In any case, appointments with a pediatric dentist are the best opportunities to detect any problems early and avoid unwanted complications. Seeing your child’s dentist regularly from the first year of life will help you dispel all doubts about the health and care of your child’s mouth.

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