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.