Parents and caregivers are often surprised by little ones developing habits that are typically associated with adults, and teeth grinding is one of them. As adults, we may become teeth grinders due to stress or anxiety, but why does a toddler clench and gnash those brand-new pearly whites?
What is Teeth Grinding?
Bruxism, which is the medical term for teeth grinding, is when the jaw is tightly clenched and the teeth grind while sleeping. If you suspect your little one has bruxism, you may hear sounds of cracking, clicking, or gnawing while they sleep. Surprisingly, teeth grinding is fairly common in early childhood. Studies show that children as young as 6 months old can develop bruxism when baby teeth are growing in, and then again around age 5 when permanent teeth appear. Experts say that most toddlers naturally outgrow bruxism, but in some cases, this habit can be carried into adulthood.
What Causes Toddlers to Grind Their Teeth?
Like adults, it is possible for toddlers to suffer from anxiety, which can cause them to grind their teeth while sleeping. However, bruxism in babies and toddlers can develop due to other reasons as well. Some children might begin grinding because they’re experimenting with the sensation of new teeth growing in or if their teeth aren’t aligned. Children may also grind their teeth as a response to pain, like when they’re teething or have an ear infection. Teeth grinding is also associated with hyperactivity and is common in children with medical conditions, like cerebral palsy.
Effects of Teeth Grinding
Most cases of toddler teeth grinding are minor and temporary, but it is important to know about the short and long-term effects that can occur if it continues. Persistent bruxism can lead to headaches and earaches in some children. It can also cause damage to their teeth’s enamel, create pain when they chew solid foods, or make their teeth more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. In severe cases of bruxism, children can suffer from jaw pain and may develop a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
What You Can Do
Again, most cases of toddler teeth grinding are minor and simply outgrown. But if you’re concerned about your child grinding their teeth, it’s highly recommended to see a pediatric dentist for guidance. Signs that it may be time for a dental visit include hearing a clicking or grinding sound when they sleep, complaints of facial or jaw pain, or if they’re suddenly sensitive to cold or hot foods and drinks.
Overall, parents and caregivers can rest easy knowing that teeth grinding isn’t dangerous or seriously harmful, but it is a good idea to monitor any signs of bruxism and see a dentist if necessary.