During the first year of life, your baby has a lot going on. One of the most notable developments revolves around teething. As each tooth emerges, your baby experiences new sensations and discomforts.
Have you noticed your baby grinding their teeth? In most cases, this action isn’t anything more than simple exploring. But if it happens often, your baby might have bruxism, a condition where they regularly grind their teeth.
Here’s more about bruxism, what causes it, and how to treat it naturally.
Bruxism is a medical condition where you regularly grind your teeth. It affects babies, children, and adults. It can happen during the day and at night. During the evening hours, it’s known as sleep bruxism. The good news is that most cases are mild and don’t require any treatment.
Symptoms of bruxism include:
- teeth grinding or jaw clenching
- grinding loud enough to hear
- damaged or worn teeth
- jaw pain or soreness
- earache or headache near temples
Infants cannot verbally tell you what’s bothering them, so it can be hard to know what’s going on. That said, even though the sound of the grinding is difficult to bear, your baby is probably just fine.
Your baby’s first tooth might appear in his mouth as early as 4 months after birth. Many babies will get their first tooth after the 7-month mark. They’ll get more of them throughout the rest of the first year, which is when you might start to notice grinding.
About 1 in 3 people are affected by bruxism. For adults, the cause can stem from stress or anger, personality type (competitive, hyperactive, etc.), and even exposure to certain stimulants like caffeine or tobacco. Sometimes the cause is unknown.
Age is another factor. Babies may grind their teeth in response to pain from teething. Bruxism is also relatively common in younger children. It typically disappears by the teen years.
Many babies and children outgrow teeth grinding naturally. No other treatment is needed. Complications at this age are rare.
Older kids with bruxism should be watched more closely to make sure they aren’t damaging their adult teeth. They may develop temporomandibular joint disease (TMJ) from repeatedly clenching their jaw.
Bruxism isn’t always related to teething, but the two can go hand-in-hand during baby’s first year.
If you notice your baby grinding his teeth, try offering him a teething toy to gnaw on. There are a variety of types you can test out to see which one works best.
- Natural rubber tethers, like Vulli’s Sophie the Giraffe, are soft and comforting. They contain no phthalates or bisphenol A (BPA).
- Ice teethers, like Nuby Soother Rings, have a small amount of liquid in them that holds a chill. The coolness can ease away pain from teeth poking through the gums.
- Wooden teethers, like these Maple Teethers, are soft and chemical-free. They’re also naturally antimicrobial.
- Silicone teething necklaces, like Chewbeads, are great for when you’re out and about. They let your baby do some hands-free chewing whenever they feel the urge.
Homemade teething aids can take many forms. Try wetting most of a washcloth and folding it into quarters. Then freeze for a few hours and let your baby hold it by the dry quarter. The cold and firmness should bring them relief.
Some parents use amber teething necklaces to ease teething symptoms. The jury is still out on whether or not these necklaces work. It’s best to speak with your child’s doctor before using one. Strangulation is a real risk whenever you place anything around your baby’s neck. For safety, remove the necklace before naps and bedtime.
Bruxism can also be caused by stress, especially in older children. If you suspect your child’s tooth grinding has something to do with worries or anxiety, try to address those issues directly. A calming bedtime routine may help with nighttime grinding.
If your baby continues grinding their teeth throughout childhood, or develops pain or complications, check in with your dentist. There are special mouthguards that can be custom-fit to your child’s teeth to prevent permanent tooth damage.
When to Call Your Doctor
Get in contact with your pediatrician anytime you have a concern about your baby’s health. Most tooth grinding is mild and doesn’t have long-lasting effects. But be on the lookout for any changes in your baby’s teeth.
Also report any irritability that might be a result of jaw pain, earache, or other soreness caused by clenching.
The sound and mental image of your baby’s teeth grinding may be disturbing to you. But remember, it’s probably a temporary condition that will go away on its own.
If you’re still worried about your baby’s teeth, make a dental appointment. Infants should have their first dental appointment when their first tooth appears, or at least by their first birthday. You can help protect your child’s teeth by keeping up with regular appointments.