So, you’ve made it through the newborn stage, are just starting to feel normal and get more than two hours sleep at a time (hopefully) and then BAM! Your little one starts teething and a whole new world of niggles and nightmares opens up before you – your baby keeps grinding teeth!
In addition to the red cheeks, profuse dribbling, and general grumpiness a teething baby may experience, you may also find that your baby starts grinding their newly formed teeth. Fun!
Usually this is nothing to worry about (although it might set your own teeth on edge!) and is just your baby exploring their new found gnashers. However, in some cases this can become a problem and it can have some lasting effects if it isn’t dealt with in a timely manner.
So why do babies grind their teeth, is there anything you can do to stop them and what are the problems associated with teeth grinding?
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What is baby teeth grinding (or bruxism)?
Most babies will occasionally grind their teeth but if it becomes regular and noticeable then your baby may have Bruxism – a medical condition where you regularly grind your teeth.
Bruxism can happen when they are awake or asleep and will usually go away once they have finished teething. 20 to 30 percent of babies grind their teeth and most grow out of it once they have finished teething. Bruxism can affect children and adults as well as babies and comes with a set of symptoms which include:
- Loud grinding or clicking sounds (especially when they are asleep)
- Jaw clenching
- Earache or headache
- Jaw pain
- Tooth damage
Obviously a newly teething little one will not be able to verbalise whether they have a headache, earache or sore ears, but if they are unusually grumpy and you notice them grinding their teeth then this could be the reason.
Why a baby keeps grinding teeth
Adults grind their teeth for various reasons, the most common being stress. Babies sometimes do grind their teeth as a reaction to stress ( a change of routine for example) but there are other reasons why your little one may be grinding their teeth.
- A ‘slippery’ bite. A ‘slippery’ bite simply means that your baby’s newly erupted teeth are not making contact with each other. Having only a few teeth means that their bite is unstable, so they may grind the few teeth that they do have just to see how it feels.
- Discomfort. If your little one is suffering pain from teething or has a headache or earache this may cause them to grind their teeth in an effort to get some relief from the pain. They don’t know that it will often make the pain worse!
- Medical reasons. Teeth grinding sometimes be a result of medical conditions such as cerebral palsy or hyperactivity. In some instances, a reaction to certain medicines can also cause babies to grind their teeth.
If your baby is grinding their teeth at night you obviously can’t give them a teether or use any other remedies to stop them. Some toddlers and children grind their teeth at night as a result of stress or over-stimulation. So giving your child a relaxing bedtime routine which includes a bath and story and minimal stimulation from screens can really help.
Also avoid giving your child anything that may have caffeine or e-numbers in as this will also stimulate them before bedtime and could make the teeth-grinding worse.
What are the problems of baby teeth grinding?
Aside from making you cringe there is usually nothing to worry about if your baby is grinding their teeth – they will most likely grow out of it. However, with some babies it is persistent and may lead you to seek advice.
The short-term effects of teeth grinding can include:
- Headache and earache from clenching their jaw
- Pain and stiffness in the jaw muscles as a result of clenching their jaw
- Pain when chewing
- Tooth sensitivity due to worn enamel
Long-term effects are rare but can include:
- Tooth damage. Serious and prolonged cases of Bruxism can cause tooth damage, such as chipped or flattened teeth. If the enamel on your baby’s teeth is already worn due to excessive teeth grinding the teeth will be weaker and so are more prone to chipping or breaking. Flattened teeth can also occur as a result of frequent grinding.
- TMJ. If your little one is a prolific tooth grinder then in very rare cases they can go on to develop Temporomandibular Joint Disease (TMJ) from repeatedly clenching their jaw. If you are concerned about your baby’s teeth grinding then you should see a medical professional for advice.
How to stop baby grinding teeth
In the majority of cases teeth grinding is nothing to worry about and does not pose any health risk to your little one. However, it is a good idea to take some early intervention if you notice them grinding their teeth.
A teething ring is the most obvious and often the most effective in relieving teething discomfort. This will also give your little one something to nosh on rather than grinding their teeth.
There is a wide range of teething rings out there to choose from. Here are just a few;
- This cute giraffe is BPA free and is made of food-grade silicone, so will be super gentle on your little ones gums.
- Teething rings that you can put in the fridge are perfect for soothing sore gums and will hopefully stop your little one resorting to grinding their teeth. This classic Nuby key-ring design is a winner.
- Natural, wooden teethers are becoming more popular thanks to their antimicrobial properties. This cute Koala teething ring has two wooden rings attached to a larger silicone ring, which give it an interesting multi-textured feel for little mouths to explore.
- Teething necklaces are favoured by some parents as a handy way to relieve teething pain when you are out and about. The risks associated with these products, such as choking and strangulation make them a contentious choice when there are so many other, super safe products on the market.
A lightly frozen washcloth is a perfect natural remedy for teething. Soak a clean wash cloth in water, or chamomile tea and pop it in the freezer for as long as it takes to freeze slightly (not rock solid obviously!). If your little one starts to grind their teeth or is getting grizzly, give them the wash cloth to soothe their gums.
If you notice your baby starting to grind their teeth try to distract them with a game or a story. Hopefully they will be so engrossed in what they are doing that they will forget about grinding their teeth.
Cool liquids and teething safe food
Cool water can help soothe teething pain and pain from teeth grinding. Stick to cool tap water and don’t be tempted to give them anything sugary.
Food such a carrot sticks that have been in the fridge can also be an effective way of easing sore gums and distracting your little one from grinding their teeth. Make sure the texture of any food you give them is soft enough for them to manage and do not leave them alone with food.
Food teethers are a fabulous (and safe) way to give your little one food while reducing the risk of choking. Try this Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder which has a mesh to prevent any large chunks of food from getting into baby’s mouth.
Keeping a record of when they grind their teeth the most should help you to spot any patterns to their behaviour. Perhaps they tend to do it when they are tired or hungry. Once you notice a pattern you can plan a distraction or make sure that you have a teething ring or something cool to eat on hand.
Gentle massage is an effective way to ease jaw pain associated with teething and teeth grinding and is super calming for your baby.
Using the pads of your fingers (with or without baby oil) gently work your way around their face from their chin to their cheeks, moving your fingers in a circular motion. Use your thumbs to relieve tension above their eyebrows.
Visit the dentist
It may seem early to consider visiting the dentist with your baby, but most dentists recommend that babies should see a dentist by the time they are 1, and certainly within 6 months of their first tooth erupting. If you are concerned about the effect teeth grinding may be having on your child’s dental health then a visit to the dentist will reassure you and ensure that any issues are picked up on sooner rather than later.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does tooth grinding damage a baby’s teeth?
The short answer is usually no. Unless your little one is a particularly persistent teeth grinder and continues to grind their teeth once all their baby teeth have erupted, you do not have to worry.
Is it normal for babies to grind their teeth?
About 20 to 30 percent of babies regularly grind their teeth and most babies will do it occasionally once they start teething just to see what it feels like! It is nothing to worry about unless it becomes frequent and they don’t respond to any remedies or distraction techniques, such as using a teething ring.
Do babies grind their teeth when teething?
It is common for babies to grind their teeth to a certain extent when they are teething, and some may do it more than others. If it continues beyond the teething stage then you will need to seek medical advice.
While teeth grinding is a habit that will set your own teeth on edge, if your little one is grinding their teeth it is usually nothing to worry about. They’re most likely just exploring the new sensation of these odd things growing in their mouth, and in most cases they will grow out of it.
If you think it is becoming a persistent problem and are worried it will have long-term consequences then it is always best to seek medical advice – even if it is just to put your own mind at rest.