Q. My 11-month-old son has six teeth -- four upper and two bottom -- and he just started grinding them. I'll hear it when he's playing or crawling, and it's driving me crazy. Why is he doing this? Is it bad for his developing teeth? Is there a way to get him to stop other than putting a pacifier in his mouth?
A. "The short answer is: It's not a problem. Leave it alone; don't let it drive you crazy," says Dr. Howard Schneider, a pediatric dentist who practices in Huntington and East Northport.
Here's Schneider's longer response: The baby only has front teeth; he has no back teeth yet. "He has no idea how he's supposed to place his jaw. He's moving his jaw around and the teeth start to bang together," he says. It often happens when babies are teething.
Even though it may sound disconcerting, a baby isn't grinding with enough force to damage the teeth, Schneider says. He's not jeopardizing his future adult teeth, either, he says.
Don't use the pacifier to make the baby stop, Schneider advises, because overuse of a pacifier could cause other oral problems, such as pulling the top teeth forward. "To me, that's a bigger deal than the kid doing a little bit of grinding at this age."
Even toddlers and preschoolers might grind teeth, but even then, it's rarely damaging, Schneider says. "We generally do not worry about tooth grinding until a child is grinding permanent teeth against permanent teeth," Schneider says.