Ugh! Listening to your 2-year-old scraping her upper and lower teeth together can be even more disturbing than hearing fingernails scratch across a chalkboard. 

Contrary to the old wives’ tale, tooth grinding isn’t a sign of intestinal worms. It’s just another one of the weird problems that can occur during deep NREM sleep. 

What Causes Tooth Grinding

Tooth grinding, or bruxism, can start as early as the first birthday and cause sleep disruption, tooth wear (even fractures), and jaw pain. It can be provoked by consuming caffeine-containing food and drinks (chocolate, iced tea, cola, etc.) or by pain from an ear infection or teething). Another cause is when your child's teeth aren't lined up right, known as malocclusion. 

If you or your partner grind your teeth, it's more likely your child will, too. And it’s especially common among kids with obvious neurological disorders, like cerebral palsy.

Don't fret...tooth grinding doesn't mean that your tot is having a nightmare. However, stress and anxiety can cause tooth grinding to increase.

Most tooth grinding happens during sleep, but it can happen during the day too!

What You Can Do

Most kids outgrow tooth grinding by the teen years. In the meantime, stress-reducing bedtime routines can reduce the problem. Use white noise, loveys, storybooks, lullabies, lavender and bedtime sweet talk to help your child drift off easily. A pacifier is fine at this stage, too. 

Because most tooth grinding stops before kids lose all of their baby teeth, it's unlikely to damage the teeth. However, if you're worried, talk to your child's dentist and mention it to their doctor. Sometimes dentists prescribe mouth guards to protect kids' teeth. If the tooth grinding is a result of teething or an ear infection, your doctor may recommend ibuprofen or acetaminophen thirty minutes before bed (it takes a little time to work).

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