Scientists aren’t sure exactly why teeth grinding and sleep apnea are linked. However, someone with obstructive sleep apnea is roughly three times more likely to struggle with teeth grinding than someone who does not suffer from sleep apnea. That does strongly suggest that there’s a connection. Let’s explore what is happening during teeth grinding and sleep apnea and the treatment plans for each.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism involves grinding the teeth or clenching the jaw, and it’s often done while sleeping. Mild cases don’t always need treatment, but severe cases can cause major troubles. Damage to the teeth and gums, jaw and neck pain, nasty headaches, and poor sleep are all linked to teeth grinding.
Additional Reading: Teeth Grinding Symptoms & Available Treatment Options
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea Fundamentals
Slumber relaxes the muscles of the body, including those in the throat. When this relaxation leads to tissue obstructing the airway, it’s called sleep apnea. These breathing interruptions trigger frequent arousals from sleep. Even if the sleeper isn’t truly aware of them, the brief awakenings stress the body and interfere with restful sleep.
What are some sleep apnea symptoms?
Snoring is probably the best-known symptom. The list includes fatigue, difficulty sleeping soundly, headaches and a sore throat upon awakening. As if that wasn’t bad enough, untreated sleep apnea can put you at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression and anxiety.
Additional Reading: Symptoms and Treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Exploring the Link Between Teeth Grinding and Sleep Apnea
Nighttime teeth grinding occurs in conjunction with other sleep disorders. Here are a few theories that explain the link between teeth grinding and sleep apnea.
- One theory suggests that the breathless awakenings caused by sleep apnea trigger a body-wide stress response. During this time, the bloodstream floods with stress chemicals. This boosts respiratory and heart rates and spurs increased activity in the jaw muscles. The added muscle movement leads to teeth grinding or clenching.
- Another theory offers the idea the tooth grinding and jaw clenching is an attempt by the body to reopen the collapsed airway.
Either way, teeth grinding is evident during sleep, especially if you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleeping Soundly With Effective Treatment
Fortunately, there are treatments available for both teeth grinding and sleep apnea. Most severe cases of sleep apnea will be treated successfully using a CPAP device prescribed by your physician. Your dentist can work in conjunction with your MD to fabricate a custom oral mouth guard to prevent tooth grinding (bruxism).
Teeth Grinding Treatment: If you notice that you’re grinding your teeth, but not having interrupted sleep, then a customized oral appliance, or a mouth guard, is a possible treatment.
Sleep apnea treatment: Mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea can often be treated with a customized orthotic device. Fitted by a dentist, this oral appliance keeps the airway open by shifting the lower jaw forward. These new oral appliances are quickly taking the place of a CPAP machine. In the past, patients found relief by using a continuous positive airway pressure device, or CPAP machine. The machine uses constant airflow delivered via a mask to keep the airways open during sleep. The new oral devices keep the airway open without the bulk of a CPAP machine.
But what if you are struggling with both conditions?
Oral appliance therapy can lead to dramatic improvements in both sleep and oral health when used to treat the one-two punch of teeth grinding and sleep apnea.
If you believe teeth grinding or sleep apnea is ruining your sleep, turn to Wekiva Dental. A member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, Dr. Offenback has the training and experience needed to help you manage your teeth grinding, snoring or sleep apnea. Contact us at 407-869-7333 today to schedule a consultation.