Are Bruxism and Sleep Apnea Related?

hispanic woman with jaw pain caused by bruxism

Grinding your teeth and breathing problems may not seem related, but in many cases, people can experience both while sleeping. Bruxism includes nocturnal teeth grinding and jaw clenching; obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway is blocked during sleep. These two conditions have a few things in common – they both involve the oral cavity and occur during sleep. While not always linked, the two conditions can be related in some cases.

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, often occurs due to relaxed muscles in the jaw and throat that allow soft tissues to block the airway. Those with OSA can experience shallow or stopped breathing up to 100 times or more per night. This causes sleep disturbances and stress on the body. The oxygen restriction spurs the body to correct the condition. Those with OSA may gasp for air, and they usually snore due to the airway obstruction. This continued stress on the body can impact sleep and increase risk for serious health issues including stroke, diabetes, heart disease and heart failure.

Bruxism and Sleep Apnea Correlation

It is not clear why those with OSA are also prone to bruxism, but there is a correlation. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that about 25% of people with OSA also have bruxism. There are a few theories on why those with OSA grind their teeth or clench their jaw during sleep.

One theory is that when the muscles in the throat relax and cause soft tissues to obstruct breathing, the body overcompensates by tightening the throat and jaw muscles. This can explain jaw clenching and movement that are indicators of sleep bruxism. Another theory is that the stress of airway blockages or low oxygen cause stress in the body, resulting in the stress-related reaction of jaw clenching or teeth grinding.

Treating Both OSA and Sleep Bruxism

Both OSA and bruxism can impact your health. OSA can create higher risk for serious cardiovascular and other health issues; bruxism can impact dental and oral health, damaging the teeth and jaw joint. Oral appliance therapy offers a solution to treat both conditions at once. Managing OSA can relieve bruxism, and using an oral device can prevent teeth grinding and protect oral health.

Our team at Peninsula Cosmetic & Family Dentistry offers effective treatments for both bruxism and sleep apnea. In many cases, they can be treated together. Contact our Charleston office to schedule an exam and consultation to improve your quality of sleep and overall health.

Posted on behalf of Peninsula Cosmetic & Family Dentistry

538 Savannah Hwy
Charleston, SC 29407

Phone: (843) 507-5481

FAX: (843) 577-4653


Monday - Thursday 8am - 5pm
Lunch break: 1pm - 2pm

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Meet Our Doctors

Dr. James B. Wisner

Dr. James B. Wisner was raised in Charleston and attended Porter-Gaud High School. He graduated from The Honors College at The University of South Carolina in 1996 and received his D.M.D. degree in 2002 from the Medical University of South Carolina’s College of Dental Medicine.

Dr. Wisner served in Las Vegas, Nevada and Spangdahlem, Germany as a Captain in the United States Air Force for three years where he completed an AEGD residency and was certified in Intravenous Conscious Sedation.

Dr. Caitlin McPherson

Dr. Caitlin McPherson was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. A graduate of Porter Gaud High School, she went on to receive her Bachelors of Science from Clemson University’s Calhoun Honors College. Dr. McPherson earned her Doctorate of Dental Medicine from the Medical University of South Carolina’s College of Dental Medicine. She is an active member of The American Dental Association and The Academy of General Dentistry.

Dr. McPherson performs all aspects of general dentistry and is Invisalign certified. Dr. McPherson especially enjoys treating pediatric patients.

Dr. Luke E. Severance

Dr. Luke E. Severance believes dentistry goes far beyond just treating teeth – it’s about building lasting relationships and making a genuine difference in the lives of his patients.

Dr. Severance was raised in Florence, South Carolina and graduated with summa cum laude from the University of South Carolina. He went on to receive his Doctorate of Dental Medicine from the Medical University of South Carolina and attended a General Practice Residency in Columbia, SC. At Prisma Health Richland Hospital in Columbia, he extended his knowledge and expertise in various areas from IV Moderate Sedation, Implant Surgery, CEREC Same-Day Crowns, Digital Dentistry, Pediatric Dentistry, Cosmetic Dentistry, and Extractions including Wisdom Teeth. He understands a dental visit can be fearful for some and his goal is to alleviate this fear by going above and beyond the need to help each person feel comfortable and cared for.

Outside the dental office, Dr. Severance enjoys spending time with his family and friends, fishing, hiking, playing soccer, watching the Gamecocks, and staying active in his church and community. Even in his free time, he studies the latest dental technology and attends dental seminars to stay up to date with the latest industry trends for delivering cutting edge dental treatments to all his patients. He is devoted to helping patients achieve optimal oral health and confident smiles which will positively impact their systemic and mental health.

Dr. Luke E. Severance


538 Savannah Hwy
Charleston, SC 29407

Phone (843) 507-5481
Fax (843) 577-4653

Opening Hours

Monday - Thursday 8am - 5pm
Lunch break: 1pm - 2pm

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