“Does My Sleep Apnea Also Make Me Grind My Teeth?”
It’s only natural for most people to grind and clench their teeth once in a while. Occasional teeth clenching and grinding does not usually cause any lasting damage or harm. However, when teeth grinding occurs frequently, eventually the teeth can be damaged and other more serious oral health complications can arise. This teeth grinding disorder can sometimes be coupled with sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea and Teeth Grinding. What’s The Common Thread?
The disorder “bruxism” is sometimes triggered when people experience periods of being partially awoken from their sleep. For that reason, bruxism is often associated with sleep disorders that engage in breathing pauses during sleep, extreme movements and snoring, which are symptoms linked to the sleep apnea disorder.
Other symptoms of sleep apnea include:
Feeling tired the next day
Sleep interruptions including choking or gagging
According to an article written for CNN.com, sleep apnea is a condition that affects an estimated one in 15 Americans but often goes undetected. Likewise, bruxing or night teeth grinding statistics are roughly the same numbers. People who have sleep apnea repeatedly stop breathing during their sleep, in some cases, hundreds of times. Individuals with untreated sleep-apnea are usually unaware they are suffering with the disorder. This is the same case with bruxism. Most people are completely unaware of their teeth grinding or clenching. Sleep apnea is a bit more serious as it means the brain and the body may be deprived of oxygen, all while the individual is asleep. The most common form of the sleep apnea disorder is obstructive sleep apnea. This particular sleep disorder is caused by an inadvertent blockage of the mouth by the soft tissues in the rear of the tongue and the mouth collapsing during sleep.
Evidence tells us that nighttime teeth grinding (otherwise known as bruxism) is a red flag for sleep apnea. Studies have shown people are more likely to grind their teeth while they’re asleep if they suffer from a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea.
You may be asking yourself, does having sleep apnea also make me grind my teeth?
In recent years; studies have indicated that airway instability during sleep, such as sleep apnea significantly causes nighttime bruxism. This makes sense. As we fall asleep, a shift in muscle tone regulation occurs with the parts of the mouth that are responsible for the breathing airway at night. Your brain repositions how the tongue, jaw and soft palette all interact at the toward the read of the mouth’s airway. This determines the way you are able to breathe and sleep at night, thus, affecting your sleeping ability.
As you sleep, the tongue in particular becomes less tense, naturally falling backwards towards the throat. This can lead to significant airway resistance or critical obstruction during sleep. Since the individual is sleeping, the only anticipated defense against this process is to continuously clench the teeth, i.e. grinding, to subsequently stimulate the muscles and soft tissues in the upper airway to hold the tongue in place and keep the airway more open.
These credible clinical researches have also shown that treating the obstructive breathing issues during sleep leads to significant improvement or complete resolution of nocturnal bruxism in many cases.
You certainly can’t die from grinding your teeth, but any breathing disorder can become life-threateningly serious.
Though there is no guaranteed cure for teeth grinding, this disorder may decrease in frequency and/or cease to exist if:
A: You are diagnosed with sleep apnea
B: Treat the sleep apnea disorder, as you will have possibly removed your body’s impulse to grind in the first place.
Keep in mind that if you grind or clench your teeth because of a separate reason (ex: stress) you may be able to resolve the sleep apnea but not the teeth grinding. In this case you will want to concentrate on tips to reduce your stress level.
How do I treat sleep apnea?
The most common treatment routes for sleep apnea are:
- The use of a CPAP mask
- Lifestyle changes (including exercise, diet, no smoking, no alcohol can significantly help)
- Throat exercises
- Treatment for an underlying medical condition
- Keep regular sleep hours
Directly treating sleep apnea does not guarantee that your bruxism disorder will stop though if you have been diagnosed with both disorders you should seek treatment for sleep apnea. This may help resolve your bruxing as well. If you find you are still grinding/clenching and damaging your teeth you will need to wear a custom made dental night guard to prevent any further damage to your teeth.
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