Toddler Grinding Teeth While Sleeping: Causes and Solutions

Many parents have experienced the unsettling sound of their toddler grinding their teeth while sleeping. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a common condition that affects both children and adults. However, when it comes to toddlers, parents may wonder if this behavior is normal or if it is a cause for concern.

While toddler teeth grinding can be alarming, it is typically not a cause for concern. In most cases, it is a normal part of a child’s development and will resolve on its own. However, there are instances when teeth grinding can be a sign of an underlying issue, such as pain or stress. In this article, we will explore the reasons why toddlers grind their teeth while sleeping, the effects of teeth grinding on their health, and what parents can do to help their child if necessary.

Understanding Toddler Teeth Grinding

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism is a medical condition characterized by the repetitive grinding or clenching of teeth. It is a common phenomenon among toddlers and children, especially during sleep. Bruxism can cause discomfort and pain in the jaw, face, and ear, and can also lead to dental problems, such as tooth sensitivity, chipping, and wear.

Prevalence of Bruxism in Toddlers

According to studies, bruxism affects up to 30% of children, with the highest prevalence in toddlers and preschoolers. The condition usually starts between the ages of 1 and 3 and tends to peak at around age 6. Most children outgrow bruxism by the age of 9.

Symptoms of Bruxism

The most common symptom of bruxism is the grinding or clenching of teeth during sleep, which can produce a loud, grating sound. Other symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Facial pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Chipped or worn teeth

Causes of Bruxism in Toddlers

The causes of bruxism in toddlers are not fully understood, but several factors may contribute to the condition, including:

Psychological Factors

Stress, anxiety, and tension can cause bruxism in some children. Toddlers who are going through significant changes, such as starting daycare or a new sibling, may be more prone to bruxism.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as sleep apnea, cerebral palsy, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can cause bruxism in toddlers.


Bruxism may run in families, suggesting a genetic component to the condition.


Misaligned teeth or an abnormal bite can cause bruxism in some children.


In conclusion, bruxism is a common condition among toddlers and children, characterized by the grinding or clenching of teeth during sleep. The causes of bruxism in toddlers are not fully understood, but psychological factors, medical conditions, genetics, and misalignment may contribute to the condition. If you suspect your child has bruxism, consult a dentist or pediatrician for advice and treatment options.

Effects of Toddler Teeth Grinding

Toddler teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a common phenomenon that affects many young children. While it is usually harmless and tends to go away on its own, it can cause some negative effects on the child’s health and well-being. In this section, we will explore some of the most common effects of toddler teeth grinding.

Damage to Teeth and Jaw

One of the most obvious effects of teeth grinding is the damage it can cause to the child’s teeth and jaw. The constant grinding and clenching can wear down the enamel of the teeth, leading to sensitivity, pain, and even tooth decay. In severe cases, it can also cause the teeth to crack or fracture. Additionally, the pressure of grinding can cause soreness and inflammation in the jaw muscles, leading to discomfort and difficulty chewing.

Pain and Discomfort

Another effect of teeth grinding is the pain and discomfort it can cause the child. Grinding can cause headaches, earaches, and facial pain, which can be particularly distressing for a young child who may not understand what is happening to them. Additionally, the constant clenching of the jaw can cause muscle tension and soreness, leading to discomfort and difficulty sleeping.

Sleep Disruption

Teeth grinding can also disrupt the child’s sleep, which can have a negative impact on their overall health and well-being. Grinding can cause the child to wake up frequently during the night, leading to daytime sleepiness and irritability. Additionally, the noise of grinding can disturb other family members who are trying to sleep, leading to further disruption and stress.

In conclusion, while toddler teeth grinding is usually harmless and tends to go away on its own, it can cause some negative effects on the child’s health and well-being. Parents should monitor their child’s grinding and seek medical attention if they notice any signs of damage, pain, or sleep disruption. By taking proactive measures to address the issue, parents can help their child avoid any long-term negative effects of teeth grinding.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Toddler teeth grinding is a common phenomenon that can cause discomfort and pain. If you suspect your child is grinding their teeth, it’s important to seek medical attention to prevent further damage. In this section, we’ll discuss when to see a doctor or dentist, diagnosing bruxism, treatment options, mouth guards, and night guards.

When to See a Doctor or Dentist

If you notice that your toddler is grinding their teeth, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your child’s dentist or doctor. They will examine your child’s teeth and ask about their symptoms to determine the best course of action. If the grinding is causing pain or discomfort, or if your child has other symptoms such as headaches or earaches, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Diagnosing Bruxism

Diagnosing bruxism can be challenging, as it often occurs during sleep. Your child’s doctor or dentist may ask about your child’s symptoms and examine their teeth for signs of wear and tear. They may also ask about your child’s medical history and perform a physical exam to rule out other conditions that could be causing the grinding.

Treatment Options

Treatment for toddler teeth grinding typically involves managing the underlying cause of the condition. If stress or anxiety is causing the grinding, your child’s doctor may recommend relaxation techniques or therapy. If the grinding is due to misaligned teeth, your child’s dentist may recommend orthodontic treatment.

Mouth Guards and Night Guards

Mouth guards and night guards are commonly used to treat bruxism in both children and adults. These devices are worn over the teeth to protect them from damage caused by grinding. They can be custom-made by a dentist or purchased over-the-counter. Your child’s dentist can help you determine which type of guard is best for your child.

In conclusion, if you suspect your toddler is grinding their teeth, it’s important to seek medical attention to prevent further damage. Your child’s doctor or dentist can help diagnose the condition and recommend appropriate treatment options, such as mouth guards or relaxation techniques. By managing the underlying cause of the grinding, you can help protect your child’s teeth and prevent future dental problems.

Prevention and Management

When it comes to preventing and managing toddler teeth grinding during sleep, there are several strategies that parents can try. Here are some tips to consider:

Establishing a Bedtime Routine

One of the most effective ways to prevent teeth grinding is to establish a consistent bedtime routine. This can help your child feel more relaxed and calm before bed, which can reduce stress and anxiety that may contribute to teeth grinding. A bedtime routine can include activities like reading a story, taking a warm bath, or listening to calming music.

Reducing Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can be major contributors to teeth grinding, so it’s important to identify and address any sources of stress in your child’s life. This may involve talking to your child about their feelings, providing reassurance and comfort, or seeking professional help if necessary.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors can also play a role in teeth grinding. For example, a room that is too hot or too cold can make it difficult for your child to sleep comfortably. Similarly, a room that is too noisy or too bright can be distracting and prevent your child from getting a good night’s sleep. Consider making adjustments to your child’s sleep environment to create a calm, comfortable space.

White Noise

White noise can be a helpful tool for masking sounds that may be disruptive to your child’s sleep. This can include sounds like traffic, barking dogs, or other household noises that may be keeping your child awake. Consider using a white noise machine or app to create a soothing background noise that can help your child sleep more soundly.


In some cases, medications may be necessary to manage teeth grinding. Your child’s doctor may recommend muscle relaxants or other medications to help relax the muscles in the jaw and prevent grinding. However, it’s important to talk to your child’s doctor about the risks and benefits of any medications before starting them.

By implementing these strategies, parents can help prevent and manage toddler teeth grinding during sleep. However, if your child’s teeth grinding persists or is causing other problems, it’s important to talk to your child’s doctor for further evaluation and treatment.


In conclusion, teeth grinding in toddlers during sleep is a common occurrence that can be caused by a variety of factors. While it is generally not a cause for concern, it is important to monitor your child’s teeth grinding habits to ensure that it does not lead to any long-term damage or discomfort.

Some common causes of teeth grinding in toddlers include pain from teething or ear infections, misalignment of the teeth, and certain medical conditions. If you suspect that your child’s teeth grinding is caused by pain or discomfort, it is important to address the underlying issue and provide appropriate treatment.

There are several strategies that can help alleviate teeth grinding in toddlers, including practicing good sleep hygiene, using relaxation techniques, and addressing any underlying medical conditions. Additionally, it is important to ensure that your child is receiving adequate dental care and that any dental issues are addressed promptly.

Overall, while teeth grinding in toddlers can be a cause for concern, it is generally a harmless and self-limiting condition. By monitoring your child’s teeth grinding habits and taking appropriate steps to address any underlying issues, you can help ensure that your child remains healthy and comfortable.

About the author
Piper is a seasoned parent who has been through the ups and downs of raising toddlers. As a writer, she shares her experiences and offers practical advice to help other parents navigate the challenges of parenthood.