If you have ever heard someone gnashing or grinding their teeth, it might be akin to the sound that a nail would make on a blackboard. It could set off your last nerve or else send you off the deep end. Statistics for the incidence of teeth grinding are varied but it is estimated that at some point in time in one’s life you will clench your teeth. Problems arise when it becomes chronic. This behavioral habit can occur during the day and night and is more commonly referred to as bruxism. In addition to the sound effect, grinding one’s teeth can cause headaches, pain in your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), broken teeth and enamel damage.
If a person grinds his or her teeth at night, studies have shown it can affect more than just the jaw and teeth. Teeth grinding has been shown to be connected to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is a condition whereby an obstruction in the airway causes the sufferer to stop breathing a number of times in each hour of sleep. In most cases, the tongue is the culprit. As we drift off into slumber, our muscles relax including the tongue, which in OSA slips back and blocks the airway. To combat this, some individuals clench and grind their teeth in attempt to keep their airway open. According to a 2009 presentation at the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), one in four patients with OSA also grind their teeth at night.
Based on studies, including one from over a decade ago, it has been a long-held belief that treating sleep apnea will decrease the issues that appear when a person grinds his or her teeth. Published in Sleep Medicine, a group in Israel performed an epidemiological analysis of bruxism incidence and discovered that this occurrence rarely occurs in isolation. The results of their findings suggested that when sleep bruxism is related to OSA, treatment may actually stop teeth grinding at night. These findings were later confirmed and presented at an annual SLEEP meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. With 25% of the OSA patients in the study also found to grind their teeth at night, the researchers found that treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) resolved bruxism in most of these individuals.
Take away message? Don’t let your sleep apnea also affect your teeth and TMJ joint. With the link between the two conditions, treatment of sleep apnea can decrease the grinding of your teeth.
If you or a loved one has OSA, find out what your treatment options, both non-surgical and surgical might be. Contact one of our medical concierges today at to schedule a free consultation.