Medical Q&As

Grinding teeth - visit dentist?

My 3 1/2 year old daughter is grinding her teeth in her sleep. Should I bring her to a dentist or wait to see if she grows out of the habit?

Bruxism is the medical term for grinding the teeth. It is extremely common and can happen in as many as 3 out of 10 children. Most children simply grow out of the problem without needing any treatment. Sometimes bruxism happens because of faulty alignment between the upper and lower teeth. Other children might grind their teeth because of earache or teething. Bruxism can also happen as a response to stress. For example a child might experience some stress as a result of change in domestic routines, moving house or even a changes at school or pre-school. Occasionally repetitive grinding of the teeth can damage tooth enamel, chip the teeth or even result in headache or facial pain. You could arrange an appointment for your child to visit the dentist in order to confirm that all is well. In extreme cases of bruxism the dentist might recommend a dental shield, which the child wears in bed at night. A night shield looks like the gum shield that footballers wear. It helps to prevent the back teeth from grinding against each other. Although it can take a little time to get used to wearing it the child usually notices an improvement soon after it starts wearing the shield. You can learn more about bruxism by reading our special feature on this subject, which you can access at: http://www.irishhealth.com/index.html?level=4&id=2852.