A lot of things happen as babies grow. These mental, physiological, and structural changes are crucial to your baby’s proper development. However, these changes can also come in some unexpected and unusual forms; one of which is bruxism. In plain terms, bruxism is the process that occurs whenever your baby grinds his/her teeth or firmly clenches their jaw.
In this article, we’d talk about everything you need to know about bruxism; the causes, duration, effects, symptoms, and what to do whenever your baby grinds his/her teeth.
Read on to find out!
Table of contents
What Exactly Is Bruxism?
As your baby grows and adjusts to the process of teething, you’d probably notice that he or she may begin to grind their teeth while awake or asleep.
Bruxism is the medical term for this process.
As a parent, you may notice that your child has developed a practice of grinding their teeth. However, this is not a cause for concern. Interestingly, a lot of children experience bruxism at one point or another during teething. In fact, recent studies have shown that 3 in 10 children would grind or clench their teeth while growing.
Here’s the good news: Your child would outgrow the process in due course.
What Makes Babies Grind Their Teeth?
The truth is no one really knows.
Medical experts around the world are still uncertain about the main case of bruxism. However, some of the leading factors include:
- Misaligned Teeth: As a parent, it is important to note that your baby does not grow all teeth at once. Sometimes, some come before others. Children may grind their teeth because the top and bottom teeth layers are not yet aligned properly.
- Pain Relief: In some cases, your baby may use teeth grinding as a means to relieve pain or discomfort resulting from an earache or even the process of teething.
- Other Medical Conditions: Recent studies have shown that bruxism may be the side effect of certain medications or an effect of other serious medical conditions like cerebral palsy, malnutrition, and allergies.
In older children, or toddlers above the age of 3, teeth grinding may be a sign/effect of:
- Stress: As your child grows, you should expect him/her to become emotionally invested in various situations. For example, a child may worry about an upcoming playdate. Even arguing parents or a suspenseful cartoon may spur teeth grinding or jaw clenching.
- Anxiety: In other instances, bruxism may be a result of the initial anxiety that comes with a routine change or impending trip.
Wait. Don’t fret.
Teeth grinding is normal and there is no cause for concern. Nothing is wrong with your precious one, and he/she would likely outgrow it with time. Later in this article, we’d talk about how to treat and prevent bruxism in your baby.
When Does Bruxism Start?
Generally, babies may begin to grind their teeth at the 6th month of life when teething begins and at age 5 when permanent teeth begins to grow.
Interestingly, teeth grinding or bruxism may occur at any time in a person’s life. This is usually a result of some of the reasons mentioned above. In adults, teeth grinding often results from extreme stress or nervousness.
As we mentioned earlier, stress and nervousness may also cause bruxism in children, but the good news is that most infants outgrow the habit. Nevertheless, if you are concerned about how your baby grinds his/her teeth, you can speak with your pediatrician to seek additional support or treatment.
The Signs & Symptoms
As expected, most babies who grind their teeth have no idea of what they’re up to. Therefore, it may be quite tricky for parents to identify the problem.
To help you, we’ve compiled a few essential signs to watch out for:
- Grinding noise during sleep: Your sound-enabled baby monitor would definitely help with this. As your little one rests, try to listen for any obvious and consistent grinding noise. If you notice this, there’s a major chance that someone is grinding his/her teeth.
- Complaints: If your toddler complains about a sore jaw, aching tooth or painful face after waking up in the morning, he/she may have spent a large part of the night grinding his or her teeth.
- Pain with chewing: For toddlers, this is fairly easy to spot. If you notice that your baby struggles with chewing at mealtimes, there is a high chance that he/she is experiencing bruxism.
Whenever parents observe any of these signs in their babies, they often wonder the effect it has on their children. To answer this question, we’d go on to talk about the effects of bruxism.
What Are The Effects of Bruxism?
Thankfully, most cases of teeth grinding or bruxism pass with no harmful effects.
Although some children may experience headaches and earaches, the process is more bothersome to parents than the baby because of the grinding sound.
In extreme (but rare) cases, nighttime grinding can lead to:
- Chipped teeth.
- Worn-out enamels.
- Serious facial pain
- Increased temperature sensitivity
- Jaw problems
Does My Child Need To See a Dentist Over Teeth Grinding?
Well, not immediately.
However, if you notice the signs of bruxism on most days of the week, you may decide to make an appointment with the pediatric dentist. Also, if your baby struggles with eating, please consult the pediatrician.
At the clinic, the doctor would check for any of the major effects listed above. Furthermore, he/she may search for teeth misalignment to identify the main cause of bruxism in the first place.
As we mentioned earlier, baby grinding teeth is often harmless. However, if you are concerned, please book an appointment with your child’s dentist.
How Is Teeth Grinding Treated?
For older children and adults suffering from the significant effects of bruxism, a night guard is often recommended for treatment.
A night guard is a thin, flexible piece of plastic which is placed over the upper gums to prevent the teeth from damage due to grinding.
As we mentioned earlier, this treatment is for adults and older toddlers. For babies who are less than 1-year-old, bruxism is ‘treated’ by offering no treatment at all. This is because the habit often goes away with time.
If you have observed that teeth grinding is your child’s response to stress or anxiety, you can solve the problem by:
- Creating an easier or more comfortable routine
- Establishing a cuddle or reading time before bed to help him/her feel relaxed before sleep
- Providing constant support and verbal reassurance.
Is Bruxism Preventable?
Yes. It is.
To help prevent your child from grinding his or her teeth, you can:
- Attempt jaw massage and stretching exercises to relax his/her muscles before bed.
- Reduce obvious stressors, especially before bed.
- Include lots of water to your child’s diet. This is important because certain researchers have observed a link between dehydration and teeth grinding.
A Final Note from Edie & Amy
In conclusion, it is important to remember that there is no need for concern. Bruxism is one of the many things your child would experience as he or she crosses various developmental milestones.
To make the process easier for your little one, you can watch out for any of the signs mentioned earlier in this article. For any major concerns, please consult your pediatrician.
You and your baby are going to be just fine!