I was a notorious tooth-grinder as a child. Since I was a toddler, I was constantly mashing my teeth together both during sleep and during the daytime. Technically, this problem is called bruxism, and it does deserve some attention. There are many reasons your baby or toddler might grind his or her teeth, including anxiety or stress. My problem was malocclusion, or misaligned teeth. According to recent studies, almost 40% of children will grind their teeth at some point or another, and they’re more likely to do so if their parents did. Experts agree that teeth grinding doesn’t do any real damage as long as it subsides, but continued grinding could result in fractures and cavities. To be honest, my teeth grinding hasn’t stopped, but like the childhood habits of many adults, it’s a one that I only mindlessly resort to when faced with very stressful or tense situations.

Getting your baby to stop can be difficult, depending on the cause. My mom brought me to the dentist when she noticed my habit, and the dentist sent me home with a mouth guard for bedtime. I tried it for one night, but lucky for me my mother was a worrywart and couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility that I would choke on it in my sleep. That was the last I saw of the mouth guard. If you’re not worried about choking, you could try giving your child a mouth guard, but this won’t work for very young babies. Ask your baby’s pediatrician or dentist what the cause of the grinding might be, and then you’ll know how to deal with it. If there is no visible cause for the grinding, it’s safe to assume the problem will pass on its own in time.

My teeth-grinding problem never caused any serious or permanent issues, but as you can imagine it was something my mom was concerned about. Save yourself the stress and remember that there are rarely any permanent issues associated with teeth grinding. However, making sure your baby’s dentist knows about it will help prevent any real problems, because he or she will be able to keep an eye on the common side effects. For example, if the dentist notices a fracture from intense grinding, he might recommend that you take the next step to prevent all grinding in the future. Though disconcerting, you’ll get used to the sound.

Source: Andrew Cheifetz et al: Prevalence of Bruxism and Associated Correlates in Children as Reported by Parents. Journal of Dentistry for Children Volume 72 Issue 2 August 2005

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