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Why is my child grinding their teeth?

It can be a little alarming when your baby or child clenches their teeth and grind them. While the sounds of a baby grinding teeth can make you cringe and you might worry if they’re damaging those newly erupted pearly whites, it’s very common and usually completely normal.

Adults can often grind as well which they can get a night guard to protect the teeth from damage. But children are growing, and would outgrow one very fast, so this isn't as much of an option for them.

Sometimes children grind as they are just growing and the bite is setting in.  Sometimes its just a habit like sleep walking. Other times, we've seen it associated with enlarged tonsils, snoring and even sleep apnea. When we snore we are cutting off oxygen to the brain that we would get by breathing normally. The brain needs plenty to produce hormones that help us recover and feel more alert during the daytime. Children could be clenching or grinding without knowing why as it has a result of stiffening their airway, thus allowing that air to pass better when sleeping.

What can we do? Studies have shown that temporary pads can be placed on the teeth to protect them from clenching too much and opening their bite. This allows more air to pass when breathing at night. They are called bite turbos or bite blocks which we use often here in the office. A bite block's main function is to correct a misaligned bite which would help open up the airway as well for the child.