The Connection Between Nighttime Teeth Grinding, Bruxism, and Sleep Apnea

Did you know that one in four people with sleep apnea also shows the signs and symptoms of bruxism, or nocturnal teeth grinding? At Aesthetic Dentistry of Bernardsville, we understand the connection between sleep apnea and nighttime teeth grinding and are here to help you find a solution to get the sleep you need and protect your teeth from future damage.

Sleep apnea and your mouth

Sleep apnea is a common condition that occurs when you repeatedly stop breathing while asleep. Often caused by overly-relaxed throat muscles, sleep apnea occurs when your soft tissues and tongue obstruct your throat and interfere with your breathing.

With sleep apnea, you may wake up gasping for air or experience restlessness throughout the night. Your partner may complain about you snoring, mumbling, or even grinding your teeth. It can occur a few times a night or, in severe cases, over 100 times.

You may not notice the nighttime symptoms of sleep apnea or their severity. Instead, you might notice their aftermath when you’re awake, including feeling like you’re in slow motion and experiencing forgetfulness.

Bruxism and your mouth

Bruxism occurs when you grind your teeth or clench your jaw repeatedly. It can happen unconsciously during the day or at night when you’re sleeping.

If you have sleeping bruxism, you’re more likely to have other sleep disorders, including snoring and sleep apnea. Bruxism can also flare up when your stress levels are high.

When left untreated, bruxism does more than just give you sore teeth the next day. It can lead to headaches, tooth decay, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, and damage to your periodontal tissue.

The connection between sleep apnea and teeth grinding

Since sleep apnea results in a lack of oxygen, it often causes sleep disturbances that result in movements and partial wake-ups. Bruxism, also classified as a sleep movement disorder, results in movements that disturb sleep and cause you to partially awaken.

In the general population, only about 8% of people suffer from nocturnal teeth grinding, but in those who have sleep apnea, the prevalence increases to 25%. Whether the relationship between sleep apnea and bruxism is causal has yet to be determined, but it’s likely that bruxism develops either from sleep apnea or from the same root cause.

Find the right treatment for both

If you see a specialist for sleep apnea and nighttime teeth grinding, chances are they’ll prescribe you a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) system. This device uses air pressure to keep your airways open, allowing you to breathe easier and sleep more soundly.

While it’s extremely effective, a CPAP machine isn’t always easy to use. It requires that you wear a face mask, which you can accidentally knock off in the middle of the night or struggle to fall asleep with. CPAPs often come with clunky machinery and, because of the noise they create, can disturb your partner’s rest.

At Aesthetic Dentistry of Bernardsville, we often recommend an oral appliance. These custom-made devices reposition your jaw and soft tissues, allowing your airways to remain open throughout the night. They’re easy to use and don’t cause any discomfort while you wear them.

Depending on your specific case, we may recommend wearing an oral appliance on its own or in combination with a CPAP machine. Soon, your sleep apnea and teeth grinding cease and you get the full night’s rest you need to feel and function at your best.

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