By Aleksandra Weber
February 12, 2018
Alena Haurylik/Shutterstock

The sound of little chompers scraping back and forth can be alarming, but it’s actually a very common behavior at this age—especially while a child sleeps. “About half of the toddlers I see grind their teeth at night,” says Samer Hakimeh, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Oregon.

While grinding in adults is usually a subconscious response to stress, a toddler might grind her teeth for one of two reasons: Baby teeth are flatter than permanent teeth, so her bite may not line up properly; or she’s simply discovering her newly erupted teeth. Although we don’t know why this habit usually happens during sleep, experts think it’s likely because that’s when kids lose full muscle control in their mouth.

There is not much you can do to stop the grinding, says Dr. Hakimeh, who advises against using a night guard until all of your kid’s permanent teeth come in. But fear not! The habit shouldn’t cause lasting dental damage, and most children grow out of it.

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Comments (1)

Anonymous
May 15, 2019
One reason children and adults alike may be grinding their teeth is because of a potential breathing disorder during sleep such as sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome. The body is struggling to open up the airway hence grinding. It is NOT normal to snore during sleep and any child that snores should be evaluated by an AIRWAY CONSCIOUS ENT. This is information that sadly many physicians and dentists alike have yet to get on board with.