What is that scary sound coming from my child’s mouth?

Baby Teeth

The first time you hear a grating sound coming from your toddler’s mouth it can be quite startling.  Don’t be alarmed. Teeth grinding, also known as Bruxism, is reasonably common in young children and is rarely a cause for concern.  As adults we may be more inclined to grind our teeth during times of stress, like those felt during a national pandemic, this is not the case for a toddler’s grinding. 

“We get a lot of calls to the office from parents worried about their children grinding their teeth,” says Dr. Mannella, of Pediatric Dental Associates of Randolph.  “We like to check a child’s mouth to make sure there are no underlying problems but the reality is that most kids just grow out of it without doing any harm to their teeth.” 

According to Dr. Mannella, approximately 15% of all toddlers will grind their teeth.  “Usually it first begins when a child’s upper and lower teeth cut through the gums.  Sometimes it can occur because the upper and lower jaws are growing at a different rate, sometimes it is a means for a toddler to self soothe when teething, or even from the pain of an ear infection.  And some kids just grind their teeth simply because they’ve figured out how to do it and they are curious about the sound they’ve learned to make.”

Because the enamel on baby teeth is thinner, excessive grinding can erode the enamel if a child is still grinding their teeth by the age of four or five.  When physical reasons for grinding are ruled out sometimes grinding can be a reaction to stress or anxiety, such as a new sibling, a change in daycare, or the start of a new school year. 

Around one-third of children with bruxism will still be grinding their teeth as adults.  Grinding and teeth clenching as an adult can lead to some pretty severe jaw pain and headaches, so it’s worth keeping tabs on this habit as your child gets older.

If you have concerns about your child’s tooth grinding, or any questions about your child’s oral health, Dr. Mannella and his team at Pediatric Dental Associates of Randolph are always happy to discuss any issues that matter to you.  You can reach their office at 973-989-7970 or check out the Pediatric Dental Associates of Randolph website at https://pediatric-dental.com/ You can also follow the practice on Facebook and Instagram for the upcoming family events.

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