Teeth grinding, otherwise called bruxism, is a common condition that affects almost half of toddlers. Although it can sound annoying, it is not a harmful condition and children usually grow out of it without any external intervention.
When toddlers develop this condition
Some children start grinding their teeth at a very tender age, even when they are as young as 10 months old, possibly because it’s a new experience for them to have teeth in their mouth. Many of them start developing this habit when they are around three or three and a half years old. The habit usually lasts till they are around six when they gradually grow out of it. It should be a matter of concern only if your child continues the habit even after six years of age.
Why do toddlers grind their teeth?
Doctors have not been able to conclusively decipher why exactly a toddler grinds his/her teeth. There is research suggesting anxiety and tension to be the cause. Other possible causes include ear infections, pain that the toddler may be enduring or teething problems. Malocclusion (a medical term for improper lining of teeth) may also be responsible for the condition. Others suggest that allergies and pinworms may have a role to play in fostering the habit.
Teeth grinding in your child is more likely if you yourself have the habit or if the child talks and drools in his/her sleep.
Should you be concerned about it?
While the sound of grinding and clenching teeth can be irritating and disconcerting, it is quite harmless in most of the cases. In all probability, your child is going to grow out of the habit and there will be no physical damage to his teeth. If you are still concerned, you can take your toddler to a pediatric dentist who can have a look at his/her teeth and inspect for any wearing out signs or some other oral problems like fractures, cavities and pulp exposure.
What you can do to help?
While it’s a good idea to wait for your toddler to grow out of the habit, you can try some relaxation techniques at home to soothe him/her before bedtime. You can rock the child gently in a rocking chair or give him/her a nice leisurely bath in the tub. You may even give the kid a soothing back rub or massage to calm him/her down. If the child has any teething going on or is suffering from an ear infection, you may consider giving him/her an appropriate dose of pain relieving medication to ease the discomfort.
Some children are fitted with night guards – plastic appliances inserted inside the mouth, which stop grinding and clenching of teeth during sleep. However, dentists usually recommend this only when the child is about 6 years of age or has developed some permanent teeth.
Teeth grinding is something which shouldn’t really alarm you. Give your toddler some time, and slowly he/she will grow out of this habit.