You might have noticed your toddler grinding teeth and may be wondering if this behavior is normal?
This unpleasant sound can often be irritating, however, it is safe. Only in a few cases, you need to intervene and know what is causing it.
Most of the time, the teeth grinding is your toddler us accompanied by the sounds of clicking when they rub their teeth.
It is important to note that teeth grinding can happen to anyone during any part of their life.
According to the University of Michigan Health System, children often grind their teeth when their teeth come in or at the age of 5 when they have permanent teeth.
Often adults or youngsters grind their teeth when they are nervous or stressed.
However, toodles grind their teeth when new teeth come in.
Most of the time,s they outgrow this habit, while there are some situations in which you should seek medical advice.
Toddler Teeth Grinding
Teeth grinding or bruxism is very common in children. It occurs when your child presses their upper and lower jaw on each other, thus moving their teeth against each other.
Most often it does not cause any problem, however, it can be worse sometimes.
Grinding during sleep
Doctors and dentists refer to tooth grinding in sleep as Sleep-related bruxism.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics AAP, teeth grinding is especially common in toodles while they sleep.
If the jaw contractions are strong, you can even hear them and it can also happen while your toddler is sleeping and they are not even aware of it.
Toddler teeth grinding often occurs during REM sleep, which is the second stage of sleep.
Most of the time, while your child is grinding their teeth, will not wake up while doing so and is involuntary.
According to some studies, there are signs of sleep disturbances during teeth grinding like an increase in heart rate or micro-arousals.
This means that your child may show certain signs like stirring awake, while they do not fully awake.
Many doctors are unsure whether grinding is a result of arousals or otherwise.
Signs and Symptoms of Toddler Teeth Grinding
Most often, you might not notice your toddler grinding their teeth unless you observe it or either hear it.
Moreover, your child is not aware that they are doing it. In most cases, toddlers not only grind their teeth while sleeping but also when they are awake.
Other signs and symptoms may include wearing of tooth enamel, increase in tooth pain, pain in the neck or jaw, sleep disruption.
Often children are not able to describe their pain or causes of discomfort. Thus, you will have to identify the causes with the help of these signs and symptoms or consult your pediatric dentist.
Causes of Toddler Teeth Grinding
Many doctors and dentists are not sure why your toddler grinds or clenches their teeth. It can be due to different factors that lead to it.
According to the Dental Press Journal of Orthodontics, experts are of the view that your toddler grinds their teeth because of the central nervous system, the mouth, the sleep-wake cycle, and certain environmental factors.
However, in some cases, there is also a link between sleep disorders and teeth grinding, like sleep apnea, although it is more common in adults.
When your toddler is grinding teeth during the night or sleep, there is a possibility that it is not due to any reason or medical conditions.
However, it can be due to periods of stress or anxiety-like major life event or trauma.
Moreover, teeth grinding can also be due to the pain your child might be experiencing.
Some children may also grind their teeth due to misalignment of their teeth leading to jaw pain.
Effects on Health
Most often, toddler teeth grinding has no ill effects on your child. As it can occur when they have new teeth erupting, it tends to go away on its own after some time.
It will not cause any permanent damage as well, as they do not have permanent teeth yet.
However, it is important to note that if your child continues to grind their teeth, then you should consult your dentist or doctor.
They will help you determine the right treatment for your child to prevent any long-term damage to their teeth and figure out if any other factor is causing teeth grinding.
Behavioral Effects of Toddler Teeth Grinding
You might be concerned about your toddler’s teeth grinding habits.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, AAS, there is a link between teeth grinding in toddlers and problems with their adjustments in schools as well as social withdrawal behaviors.
According to another survey, parents report that the same children who had teeth grinding issues at night showed problems in social settings, less engagement with peers, and more withdrawal.
Moreover, parents report that 36.8% of pre-schoolers grind their teeth once or twice a week or 6.7% for 4 or more times.
Impact on Sleep
Many sleep studies explain that excessive teeth grinding can interfere with your child’s sleep patterns and may also cause irritability and other behavioral issues.
Typically, teeth grinding does not make your child wake up in the middle of the night, thus, it is often rare that it will disturb their sleep.
However, if their grinding habit is too loud that it is causing sleep disturbances, you can consult your dentist or doctor can talk to them about how to make your toddler stop grinding their teeth.
When to See a Dentist?
In most cases, you do not have to visit your dentist to make your toddler stop grinding their teeth and will disappear eventually,
However, in some cases, it may be due to another underlying cause that needs treatment or could lead to another problem for your toddler.
You should keep an eye on the following if your toddler is experiencing teeth grinding:
- If they complain about pain in their head
- signs of trauma to the teeth or gums like redness, swelling, or bleeding
- your child appears to have pain or discomfort in their face when they wake up
- tooth sensitivity when they drink something hot or cold.
While toddler teeth grinding does not cause any adverse effects, you can consult your dentist if you observe any of the above.
Diagnosing the Symptoms
Many children are not aware of their grinding issues, however, you or your older children can identify the problem.
Some signs are grinding noises, sore jaw after they wake up, or pain when chewing food.
If you think your toddler is grinding their teeth, then visit your dentist who can look for the signs and symptoms of teeth grinding.
- chipped enamel
- wearing and tearing if enamel
- signs of sensitivity
This exam will help them to determine the cause of misaligned teeth or stress and recommend an effective treatment for your child.
Treatments for Teeth Grinding
In the case of older children, dentists often recommend using a nightguard. This is to relieve them of pain or tooth misalignment issues.
Nightguards are thin, flexible pieces of plastic that slip over the upper gums to protect their teeth from damage.
However, the teeth in your toddler are constantly changing which hinders the effects of nightguards to fit well.
However, keep in mind that you should not wake your child up when they grind their teeth at night. This can cause sleep disturbance in your child which can lead to behavioral issues.
Usually, there is no treatment for your toddler’s teeth grinding.
If you think that stress and anxiety may be causing it, you can establish more of a routine with your toddler.
This can include special snuggle time, or reading bedtime stories to help them feel calm and comfortable before drifting off to sleep.
How long does it Last and Prevention
Most of the time, your toddler will stop grinding their teeth when they lose their baby teeth.
However, some kids continue grinding their teeth to adolescence. And if stress is causing bruxism, then it will continue until their stress eases.
As bruxism is your child’s natural reaction to growth and development, most of the time you cannot prevent it.
You can give your toddler a warm bath or shower, play soothing music or read to book to make them comfortable while they drift off to sleep.
But in older kids, if it is due to stress or anxiety, you can talk to your child and help them deal with stress.
For instance, they can be upset about going away from home for their first trip, moving to a new place, or other fears.
Talk to your child and try to help ease their stress. Moreover, taking kids for regular dental checkups can also help find and treat teeth grinding.
Toddler teeth grinding is often common and does not have any adverse effects on their teeth, as with time, permanent teeth will replace them.
However, if you observe that it is causing sleep disturbances leading to behavioral changes, then you can try giving them a warm bath, or reading a book to make them comfortable before they sleep.
While your toddler has a few more years with their baby teeth, keep in mind that their grinding habits will resolve on their own as they will grow.