What Should Parents do if Babies Grind Teeth at Night?
If you've noticed your baby grinding their teeth while sleeping, you're certainly not alone. Baby teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is actually quite common as infants develop communication, sensory and motor skills through mouthing and teething. It can understandably cause concern for parents wondering if it's normal or potentially problematic. In this post, Kaiya Angel will explore the reasons babies may grind their teeth, whether nighttime teeth grinding should be a cause for worry, and some tips for parents on how to handle it if it occurs regularly during sleep.
Is it bad for a baby to grind their teeth while sleeping?
Most experts agree that occasional teeth grinding or bruxism while sleeping is generally not harmful for babies. As they develop strong jaw muscles and teeth begin emerging through the gums, minor teeth grinding can help relieve teething pain and discomfort during sleep. However, excessive or very forceful grinding over long periods could potentially cause issues. According to pediatric dentists, severe bruxism that occurs nightly could stress developing teeth and jaw joints if continued long-term. But for most infants, light teeth grinding or clenching observed only occasionally or intermittently during sleep cycles is usually nothing to be overly concerned about from a dental health standpoint. More frequent or intense grinding would need to be monitored and evaluated by a dentist.
Should I be worried about baby grinding teeth?
In most cases, no - you generally don't need to be worried about your baby grinding their teeth. As discussed earlier, mild teeth grinding during sleep is very common and considered developmentally normal for infants and toddlers. Their gums are often sore from teething, which can cause grinding as a natural reflex.
However, if your baby's teeth grinding seems excessive or forceful to the point of disturbing their sleep, lasts for long periods each night, or is accompanied by other signs of discomfort during the day, it's fine to discuss it casually with your pediatrician. They can examine your baby and determine if there are any underlying issues or if it's simply a mild behavior they'll likely outgrow.
Unless instructed otherwise by your doctor, mild teeth grinding should not keep you up at night with worry on its own. Babies sometimes do odd things as they grow and develop, and teeth grinding is usually not a major concern medically. Try to avoid excessive attention to it, as this could potentially make them grind more from stress. Put your mind at ease - your baby is likely fine. But discuss persistent excessive grinding with your pediatrician for reassurance.
The reasons why babies grind teeth?
Teething - As new teeth start coming in, it can cause discomfort and pain in the gums as they emerge. Grinding helps soothe this pain by producing natural painkillers (endorphins) and applying pressure. Teething typically starts around 6 months and can continue until age 3.
Jaw and facial muscle development - During early infancy and toddlerhood, babies' jaw muscles are rapidly growing and strengthening to support chewing. Grinding assists in developing these important muscles that control the mouth.
Self-soothing behavior - Light grinding or clenching provides comforting pressure and sensation when a baby is teething, tired, upset or trying to fall asleep. It acts as a natural self-soothing mechanism to help them feel calm and refocus attention.
Learning - Babies grind as they learn to communicate through early sounds and experiment with control of their mouths, tongue and emerging oral motor skills needed for speech. This mouthing and grinding helps with learning.
Reflex action - For some babies, occasional mild grinding may simply be an involuntary reflex triggered by the gums adjusting to new teeth. It's an automatic response rather than meaningful behavior.
Stress release - Teeth grinding or clenching is thought to help release tension and stress during developmentally challenging periods like initial teething episodes or when exploring new environments.
So in summary, baby teeth grinding often stems from teething pain relief, jaw development, self-soothing needs as they learn and is usually a normal reflex - not a cause for concern on its own.
What should parents do if babies grind teeth at night?
Consult pediatrician: Schedule a well-baby visit to discuss grinding in detail. Mention frequency, intensity, sleep disruption. The doctor will carefully examine baby's teeth, gums, jaw to check for any issues causing discomfort. They may offer advice or monitor progression.
Relieve pain before bed: Ask pediatrician if an oral pain reliever like infant acetaminophen is recommended 1-2 hours before bed based on baby's age/weight. This can help reduce soreness so grinding is less likely. Give dosage as prescribed.
Soothe gums with massage: Starting 1 hour before bed, take 5 minutes to gently rub baby's gums along emerging teeth using a clean pinky finger in small circular motions. This increases blood flow and relieves pressure and pain.
Provide cooling teethers: Keep a rotational teething toy or teething ring in the fridge throughout the day. Encourage baby to chew on it before bed to soothe pain. The coldness feels refreshing for tender gums.
Brush teeth and massage: Right before bed, wet a very soft infant toothbrush and dab a smear of child-friendly toothpaste on. Gently brush exposed teeth and massage gums with the brush for 2 minutes.
Play white noise: From bedtime routine start, play calming sounds like nature noises, waves or gentle music at low volume using a sound machine or app. This distractions baby from urge to grind.
Freeze fruit for teething: Puree fruits like banana or berries and pour into ice cube trays for baby to gum on. The chill feels refreshing on hot, swollen gums.
Offer a pacifier temporarily: For some babies, sucking is preferable to grinding during wake periods and bedtime routines when teeth pain flares up.
Try a teething necklace: Look for BPA-free, silicone or fabric ones baby can safely chew on for distraction. Never use metal ones.
Provide snug swaddling: Wrap baby cozily in a light blanket, leaving one arm free. The swaddle promotes calmer sleep habits which may curb urges to grind.
Ensure a comfortable environment: Check that baby's room is not too warm, cold, light or noisy - all of which could disturb sleep and aggravate teething distress.
Comfort with care: If grinding wakes baby, maintain night routine by keeping lights dim and voice low/calm. Rock or nurse back to sleep without unnecessary attention on grinding behavior itself.
Monitor and follow-up: Note how long grinding persists. If more than 2 weeks, follow-up with pediatrician to ensure no issues have developed requiring dental referral or other guidance. Baby's wellbeing is priority.
In closing, while it may seem unsettling to hear your little one grinding their teeth at night, take comfort in knowing it's typically quite normal and temporary as they grow. As discussed, the development of facial muscles, teething pain relief, and self-soothing behaviors often underlie why babies brux. Occasional grinding alone generally poses no health risks. If integrating some of the simple measures discussed like gum massages and white noise doesn't help reduce frequent or bothersome grinding over a few weeks, then consulting your pediatrician is wise just to confirm all is well. Otherwise, be assured this phase will pass as your child's mouth continues to develop comfortably. With patience and timely medical guidance if needed, teeth grinding during sleep is seldom something that requires serious concern for parents of healthy babies.
An expert in sleep sack design, is a valued contributor to Kaiya Angel's blog. With a strong background in baby sleep bags and maternal care, she is highly regarded for her professionalism. Yujia Shi prioritizes baby comfort and safety in her designs, using high-quality materials. Her insightful articles on sleep bags have been featured in reputable publications and have gained a significant readership. Trust Yujia Shi to help you create a comfortable and safe sleep environment for your baby, backed by her proven track record in the industry.
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