Dental Screening Could Save Your Life If You Have Sleep Apnea
Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a common malady that affects a significant percentage of the population.
How many people have bruxism is hard to determine, but it is estimated that up to 15.9% of the population may grind and clench in their sleep (up to twice that percentage may grind and clench while awake).
Bruxism is associated with another health malady called sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is not as common as grinding; whereas up to 15.9% of the population may grind, only around 1 in 15 adults may have sleep apnea. That comes out to around 7%.
Obviously not everyone who has bruxism has sleep apnea. Not everyone with sleep apnea necessarily has bruxism either, but there is a strong correlation between the two.
Types Of Sleep Apnea
There are multiple types of sleep apnea, the most common of which is called “obstructive sleep apnea.”
In this condition, the jaw falls backward as the airway muscles relax while you are approaching the deepest phase of sleep. For structural reasons, this creates an obstruction where the airway collapses. At this point, breathing is difficult or impossible.
Thankfully your brain gets wind of the situation and reopens the airway. This can happen numerous times in an hour and creates its own problems.
Basically, if your obstructive sleep apnea is really severe, you may never get the deep sleep you need. In rare cases, it can also be life threatening.
What is the Link Between Teeth Grinding and Sleep Apnea?
Because the jaw is obstructing the airway in sleep apnea, the brain tries to tense it back up to reopen the airway.
This is done by sending a signal to grind or clench your teeth. This entire process happens while you are fast asleep, so it is unconscious.
You may sometimes wake up with your teeth clenched, but quite often you may be entirely unaware you are clenching or grinding at all.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Bruxism?
How can you figure out whether you might be grinding your teeth in your sleep? Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms:
- You wake up with a headache, toothache, or sore jaw. You may also experience these symptoms throughout the day.
- Your bite is off or you hear a clicking sound when you chew (this may indicate your jaw has become misaligned).
- The surfaces of your teeth are becoming flat or worn down.
- Your gums may show some recession and abfraction.
- You may have benign bone growth such as dental tori.
Keep in mind that there are other potential causes of all of these signs and symptoms. Your gum recession could be the result of gum disease or even just poor oral hygiene. Your headache could be the result of a misaligned jaw and nothing more.
You need to see a dentist to evaluate your symptoms and signs. If you sleep with a partner, you can also ask your partner if they have heard you grinding.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
Some people figure out they have sleep apnea because they wake up in the middle of a cycle or their partner notices that something is off with their breathing in the night. Sometimes snoring is associated with sleep apnea. Other times, however, the signs and symptoms are more subtle.
Because patients with severe sleep apnea may get a shortage of deep sleep, they may feel tired during the daytime. If you have sleep apnea, you may wake up feeling groggy, and find yourself fatigued throughout the day. You may also feel more stressed and anxious than usual (stress is another cause of bruxism, which may be yet another link between these two conditions).
What Should You Do If You Have Symptoms of Bruxism or Sleep Apnea?
If you believe you may be grinding your teeth at night, you should bring it up the next time you go to your dentist. If you think you may suffer from sleep apnea as well, you will need to visit a sleep specialist for evaluation.
If you do discover that you have bruxism, sleep apnea, or both, your dentist and sleep specialist with discuss treatment options with you. Researchers have found that treating sleep apnea can help to reduce or even eliminate grinding.
You can also consider a dental night guard. This mouthguard helps to relax your jaw into the right position to prevent grinding, and also provides your teeth and gums with a layer of protection for when you do grind and clench.
You can now order custom mouthguards online for a much lower cost than your dentist would charge you.