Tooth grinding or bruxism in babies isn’t that unusual as it is estimated that nearly 38% of all babies will grind their teeth at some stage, and this usually begins around the age of six months when their teeth first begin to erupt, and generally happens at night or during nap time. It could be that your baby is just getting used to the sensation of having teeth in her mouth as when you think about it, it must feel pretty strange at first and can be quite uncomfortable and painful.
It may also be because the teeth don’t feel as if they are in the right place to her and grinding could be her way of trying to line them up correctly. There are other possible causes of tooth grinding which may be due to pain from teething, or an earache or breathing problems from having a blocked nose or allergies.
What can I do to help?
If you think your baby is grinding her teeth because her teeth are erupting and causing her pain then giving her a chilled teething ring may help alleviate the discomfort. If she is grinding her teeth because of an ear infection or because of breathing difficulties or allergies then you will need to talk to your pediatrician to work out a treatment plan for her. Making sure your baby is following a relaxing routine such as having a nice warm bath before bed that may help break the cycle of bruxism.
Additional causes of bruxism in babies and young children
Some doctors believe that teething triggers the habit of teeth grinding and is a manifestation of stress or anxiety. Exploring her teeth and finding out what they feel and sound like can be a way for her to deal with anxiety. Bruxism can be a way for a child’s brain and muscles to work out exactly where their teeth are in relation to the rest of their mouth and in a way is just a natural development even though it can sound very alarming to parents.
In general there are two peak periods for teeth grinding to begin in young children, with the first being when the baby teeth come through and the second being when the adult teeth begin to erupt. In most cases the bruxism stops before permanent damage to adult teeth can occur. It’s always a good idea to ask your dentist to check your baby’s teeth in order to rule out any physical cause for the bruxism.
If it’s causing pain to your young child or is making their jaw ache then your dentist may prescribe a night guard, although in general night guards are not born by babies or children who do not have very many teeth. It’s also worth watching your baby during the day and seeing if they clench their teeth or grind them when upset or anxious. If this happens then try to break the cycle by giving them extra attention and cuddles to reduce anxiety and stress levels.