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Question: “My husband grinds his teeth at night, and it drives me crazy. It is so loud that it wakes me up sometimes. Is this habit likely to do any damage to his teeth?”

Answer: Grinding one’s teeth at night is called bruxism, and it is a problem for many people. Whether or not it damages the teeth is often dependent upon the intensity and duration of grinding.

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Psychological factors such as stress, tension, or suppressed anger are usually responsible for bruxing. Poor tooth alignment (malocclusion) can also contribute to bruxism. Many children also brux when their upper and lower teeth don’t fit together comfortably. Fortunately, most kids stop bruxing when their adult teeth start to come in.

The most common side effects of nocturnal (night-time) teeth grinding are worn down teeth that are very often sensitive to temperature changes and chewing. The sensitivity is generally caused by the exposure of the inner layers of tooth structure after the enamel is worn through. Grinding the teeth together can also cause premature failure of dental restorations.

Jaw pain, facial muscle soreness, morning headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems, and earaches are other common symptoms caused by bruxing. People often become cognizant of this common problem when their spouse is awakened by the loud noise associated with the grinding of teeth.

Some cases of bruxism are minor and don’t require any treatment. For more severe cases, stress management techniques are encouraged, and night guards are often fabricated to protect the teeth. Depending upon the severity of tooth wear, sometimes crowns or onlays are required to rebuild the affected teeth. In situations where all of the teeth are severely worn, full mouth rehabilitation is sometimes necessary.

Excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine use can exacerbate bruxism. Limiting these factors and decreasing your stress level can improve this habit and alleviate their symptoms. Seeing a dentist regularly to monitor the signs and symptoms associated with teeth grinding can help your husband to prevent more serious complications.