The other night as I was reading in bed, I noticed my husband’s jaw muscles clenching and moving furiously. Then, all of a sudden, I heard a terrible crunching sound from his mouth as his teeth moved back and forth against each other. He was grinding his teeth so hard, I was afraid they might break. It became clear to be me he needs to learn how to stop grinding teeth at night.
If like me you’ve experienced this, you may be at a loss to know how you can help your partner combat the symptoms of bruxism, as it is known. Your spouse may not know he’s doing it, but it could be causing him to wake up with awful symptoms. Luckily, there are many steps you can take to help your partner stop grinding and start sleeping soundly.
The first step to helping your partner is to figure out what’s really happening inside their mouth. Teeth grinding or clenching affects about 10% of the adult population. And up to 33% of children will grind their teeth when their adult teeth are coming up.
Teeth grinding can occur without any apparent underlying reason or can result from another condition, such as anxiety or sleep apnea. If your spouse has been waking with a dull headache or jaw muscles that feel tight and painful, it may be due to their nightly teeth gnashing. Other symptoms may include:
- Pain in the face
- Sensitivity to hot and cold while eating or drinking
- Swelling along the jaw line
- Problems opening and closing the mouth
- Lockjaw or a popping sound when opening the mouth
- Damage to the enamel, worn or broken teeth
- Inflammation of the gums
There’s no single reason why people experience this problem. Genetically speaking, 25-30% of people who grind their teeth have a family member who does the same thing. If your spouse has missing molars or teeth that are poorly aligned, it could be causing them to clench or grind.
One of the most common reasons for teeth grinding is stress or anxiety. Some 70% of teeth grinders admit to having a stressful work situation that puts immense pressure on their daily life. Though not as common, other reasons for teeth grinding include mineral deficiency – usually magnesium and calcium – allergies and parasites, such as pinworms.
What You Can Do to Help
Since teeth grinding tends to happen at night, most people are oblivious to it. You will be their first line of defense in identifying and understanding the problem. And most likely, you’ll be the one who gets them the relief they need. Check out these seven tips for combatting the problem.
Watch what they chew
Many people chew on pens and pencils throughout the day without realising it. This stress on their teeth can cause the jaw to move out of alignment. The same is true for nail biters. If your partner is grinding their teeth at night, they should avoid chewing gum or ice, both of which have a harmful effect on the alignment of the teeth.
Check their medications
Certain drugs can cause teeth clenching and grinding as a side-effect. If your spouse is on antidepressants, uses recreational drugs or takes pain medication, teeth grinding may be a symptom. They’ll want to talk to their doctor about the best action plan for alleviating these symptoms while still being able to treat the pre-existing ailment.
Keep them hydrated
Drinking water is one of the best things your partner can do in this situation. Staying hydrated can reduce stress and help the muscles to function properly. This may reduce symptoms and help stop them grinding their teeth.
Make sure they stay away from caffeine and alcohol right before bed, both of which play a role in keeping them from entering the deep stages of sleep and getting enough rest.
Participate in an exercise program
Exercise, especially earlier in the day, can help you and your partner fall asleep more easily and may help reduce bruxism symptoms. Exercise, such as walking or running, can also help the muscles to relax after a long, stressful day.
Just be sure that they avoid exercising too close to bedtime because the release of endorphins can cause them to stay awake. Exercise is definitely one of the best ways to fight stress and anxiety.
Try Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a psychological treatment program that will help your partner change the habitual behaviors that may be leading to teeth grinding. They’ll learn techniques to handle stress and anxiety, and tips for eating, exercising and sleeping better.
Use relaxation techniques
Though it’s sometimes hard to avoid arguments that stress the one you love (especially where money is involved), try not to talk about finances or any other stressful topic before bedtime. Instead use massage techniques, take a hot bath and or engage in other relaxing activities before hitting the hay.
Schedule an appointment
If you’ve tried all the above techniques but just can’t get your partner to stop grinding their teeth, you’ll need to seek advice from your dentist, doctor or oral maxillofacial surgeon. An underlying medical condition might be causing them to grind their teeth.
If they’re suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, you might notice that they stop breathing several times during the night when their airway gets blocked. Symptoms of this may be snoring or daytime fatigue.
Your partner may also have Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome, snoring, or a parasomnia disorder such as sleep talking, sleep walking or hallucinations. If the doctor thinks your partner’s teeth grinding won’t resolve on its own, he or she may recommend one of the following treatments:
- Mandibular Advancement Devices, also called MADs, that help bring the bottom jaw forward during sleep
- Bite plates
- Bruxism appliances
- Mouth guards and night guards
- Hypnotism and behavioural therapy
- Medications such as Botox muscle relaxant
- Dental procedures
By taking an active interest in your partner’s sleep patterns, you’ll be taking the first step to stop grinding teeth and helping you both get a good night’s rest. By figuring out what is bothering your partner, you’re taking a huge step towards helping them figure out why they’re waking up with unexplained symptoms. You might just be uncovering the reason you haven’t been sleeping soundly too.