Q: My husband grinds his teeth at night. Sometimes it drives me out of the room. What can we do?
A: The good news is that, yes, there are steps that can help your husband with his—and your—problem. The technical name for your husband’s condition is bruxism. Some experts estimate that as many as 10 percent of the population deal with this grinding. And that includes children right through the elderly.
The habit is not necessarily confined to nighttime. People who grind their teeth in their sleep generally have no idea they’re doing it. And they may wake up feeling fine, especially if they grind earlier on in their sleep cycle. Others, however, wake with some combination of jaw, shoulder and neck pain. Bruxism also can significantly wear teeth and loosen them. It can crack tooth enamel and chip or break teeth. During sleep, bruxism can cause a person’s jaw to clench at a pressure up to six times greater than the pressure during waking hours.
Causes of bruxism can vary. Stress, a sleep disorder, an abnormal bite or crooked or missing teeth all can be factors. The best person to talk to if you’re suffering from bruxism is your dentist. Whatever the cause, your dentist will know what step to take to deal with it. If it’s stress, for instance, it’s possible that physical therapy or counseling could help. Muscle-relaxing medication or a nighttime mouth guard, specially fitted by the dentist, may be the answer.
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