Sleep Apnea and Bruxism: What You Need to Know

Treating OSA and Sleep-Related Bruxism

As many as one in three people suffer from bruxism, a condition causing grinding of the teeth during sleep. Recently, research has shown that many people who with bruxism can experience TMJ and may also be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Up to 80 percent of the one in 15 people estimated to suffer from OSA do not even realize they have the condition.

In this article, we’ll tell you what you need to know about bruxism and OSA and what you can do to better manage these conditions.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a condition that causes an individual to stop breathing as many as thirty times an hour while asleep. Soft tissue in the throat area blocks the airway, causing snoring, gasping or choking as the individual stops breathing. Sometimes the individual will wake with the breathing interruptions. Often, they do not wake and can be unaware they are suffering from the condition.

In addition to extreme fatigue, OSA can cause other serious health problems if left untreated. An individual with OSA is four times as likely to suffer a stroke and three times as likely to develop heart disease. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research reports that more than 38,000 people die each year from cardiovascular issues related to sleep apnea. Common risk factors for OSA include smoking and being overweight.

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism is the grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw. This can occur subconsciously while awake but often occurs during sleep. Bruxism can cause flattening or loosening of your teeth, worn tooth enamel, headaches, and other tooth, face, and neck pain. Bruxism that occurs during sleep is considered a sleep disorder and can be exacerbated by stress and other sleep-related conditions.

The Link Between OSA and Sleep-Related Bruxism

There are various views on whether OSA causes sleep-related bruxism or vice-versa. Regardless, there is a clear co-occurrence of the two conditions. One theory is that when your airway becomes constricted because of OSA, the muscles in your mouth and jaw activate to attempt to reopen it, causing teeth grinding.

Another theory suggests that the clenching of your jaw and grinding of your teeth triggers salivary glands that help lubricate tissue in the back of the throat. This can cause labored breathing.

Treating OSA and Sleep-Related Bruxism

In mild to moderate cases of OSA and sleep-related bruxism, an effective treatment option is an oral appliance such as a night guard. A night guard lightens tension in your facial muscles and helps reposition your jaw and tongue to prevent airway blockage while also preventing your teeth from grinding together.

Your dental provider can create a custom-fit night guard that will comfortably and safely treat OSA and sleep-related bruxism. Your provider will make a dental impression and mould, which are used to create a cured plastic or acrylic-based mouthpiece that fits over your teeth.

Gainesville Dental Associates can help create a custom night guard to bring relief from OSA and sleep-related bruxism. Contact our office today for more information.