Of all the problems and challenges that come with having a toddler, grinding teeth may not be the first thing many think of. After all, this is the notorious time known as the “terrible twos,” so parents are usually more concerned with temper tantrums, fussy eating habits, learning to talk, and learning to play with other kids.
But tooth grinding, or bruxism, is more common than many realize. Research shows that as many as 30% of children may grind their teeth to some degree. To learn more about this phenomenon, and what you can do as a parent to help, we’re sharing this helpful guide.
What Is Tooth Grinding?
Tooth grinding is the clenching of the jaw and grinding together of the teeth on a chronic basis. When it is diagnosed as a medical condition it is called bruxism.
In most cases, people who grind their teeth are not aware they are doing it, and it is very common to grind your teeth while sleeping. When it occurs in children and toddlers, they will generally outgrow bruxism, but there are other situations where it can persist and cause problems.
Causes of Toddlers Grinding Their Teeth
Toddlers may grind their teeth for a wide range of reasons. For some, it may simply be a response to having new teeth and getting used to moving their mouth with chompers in them. In other situations, teeth grinding could be related to an issue or challenge, such as:
- As a response to discomfort from teething or ear problems
- Misaligned teeth or jaw
- Certain medical conditions or medications
- Increased stress and anxiety, particularly in older toddlers
Is it normal for toddlers to grind their teeth?
While some amount of teeth grinding is normal and common, and something toddlers should grow out of, it is important to bring it up to your doctor or pediatric dentist. This is because there can be some potential for tooth grinding to cause problems, or be related to another underlying issue.
What problems can grinding teeth cause?
While bruxism in toddlers is often harmless, there is a chance that it can cause other issues and potentially damage teeth. Issues that may be related to grinding teeth include:
- Worn enamel
- Chipped teeth
- Jaw pain and soreness
- Tooth sensitivity
If you notice signs of serious clenching or grinding, and believe it may be causing problems for your child, you should see a pediatric dentist for diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosing and Treating Bruxism in Toddlers
When determining the underlying cause of bruxism and identifying any potential damage, dentists can take the following steps:
- Performing a full hands-on evaluation of the teeth to check for chipped enamel and signs of wear.
- Check jaw alignment and bite.
- Take X-rays to ensure the teeth are coming in properly and there are not impacted teeth.
- Test for sensitivity with air and water by using gentle blasts of compressed air and jets of water.
Your dentist may recommend monitoring the issue to see if it improves. If a toddler is not growing out of tooth grinding or clenching and it is causing problems, the most common treatment is a night guard. This is a mouthpiece that is specially molded to a child’s mouth and helps prevent bruxism and reduce the effects of wear and tear on the mouth and jaw.
Practical Tips for Helping Children Who Grind Their Teeth
While there may not be a way to completely stop the habit, there are some tips that parents can follow to reduce some of the stress and anxiety their little one may be feeling:
- Do not stress your child out about grinding their teeth, the best thing you can do is create a calmer environment.
- Help your child relax before bed with a warm bath, a soothing story, and relaxing music.
- Toddlers are still learning how to communicate, but ask your little ones about any worries or stresses they may be dealing with.
- Talk to your doctor if there are any mental health or behavioral problems that may be involved.
It is normal for toddlers to outgrow this habit by the time their adult teeth come in, but if the problem persists, continue to work with your doctor and dentist to manage this habit.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Going to the dentist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!