Is there a link between sleep apnea and bruxism? First, you have to know that Sleep Apnea is not just snoring!
Now, after that been said, many people wonder: is there a link between my sleep apnea and my bruxism? First, let’s take a closer look at these two conditions.
Sleep apnea, which affects more than 18 million Americans, is a sleep disorder that can become quite serious and even life threatening, as an individual’s breathing will repeatedly stop and start while they are asleep. Some signs that you may be suffering from sleep apnea include if you snore loudly and if you feel tired and lethargic, even after a full night’s rest.
Not all sleep apnea cases are the same, but in general there are two main types of sleep apnea.
- The first is called obstructive sleep apnea, and is the more common of the two. This type of sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissue in the back of your throat relaxes while you are sleeping, which blocks the airway and causes loud snoring.
- The second type of sleep apnea involves the central nervous system and is called central sleep apnea. This type of sleep apnea occurs when your brain does not send the proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing; people with this type of sleep apnea rarely snore.
Bruxism, at first glance, seems completely unrelated to sleep apnea, though both occur while an individual is sleeping. Patients who have bruxism will grind, clench, or gnash their teeth, often while sleeping. While mild bruxism may not require any treatment, in some people bruxism can be severe enough to cause headaches (often of migraine strength), jaw disorders, damaged teeth and other serious health problems.
Like sleep apnea, it is sometimes hard to know if you have bruxism, and this ignorance of your condition can lead to further and worsening health problems. Therefore, it is important to know the symptoms of bruxism so you know when to see your doctor or dentist. Some of the signs and symptoms of bruxism include if your teeth are flattened, fractured, loose, or chipped, if you have worn tooth enamel or increased tooth sensitivity, or if you have tired or tight jaw muscles.
Now that we know a little bit more about these two disorders, it’s time to consider whether or not they’re related to one another. As it turns out, research suggests that 1 in 4 patients with obstructive sleep apnea (the more common type of sleep apnea) also suffer from bruxism. This is a much higher rate than the 8% of Americans that suffer from bruxism, which has led many scientists and researchers to believe that the two conditions are indeed related. Indeed, bruxism in these individuals is likely caused by the sleep apnea, which stops and starts breathing during the night: when an apneic event ends, this may then be accompanied by snoring, gasps, wheezing, and teeth grinding.
Other links between the two sleep disorders include anxiety and daily caffeine intake. Medical experts believe that high levels of anxiety can lead to bruxism, and also that sleep apnea, if gone untreated, can lead to depression and anxiety: ultimately it becomes a vicious circle, with sleep apnea leading to anxiety and that anxiety leading to bruxism. In addition, the daytime sleepiness that can result from sleep apnea may encourage an individual’s caffeine consumption, which has been associated with a high risk of bruxism: again, a cyclical effect occurs in which the sleep apnea leads to caffeine consumption which then leads to bruxism.
So How Can You Treat These Two Interrelated Sleep Disorders?
It used to be that a dentist could diagnose bruxism in a patient, but would then need a physician to diagnose that patient’s sleep apnea, and vice versa: all of this back and forth could lead to expensive treatments and referrals, miscommunications, and a lot of time spent going back and forth between specialists and even sleep clinics.
Thankfully, all of this can be avoided with the STATDDS Bruxism and Sleep Monitor, a cost-effective device (for dentists) that the patient wears while sleeping within the comfort of their own home. This monitor provides objective data on bruxism and obstructive sleep apnea, and the resulting data analysis provides a patient’s dentist with a comprehensive report of the patient’s bruxism episodes index (BEI) and the apnea/hypopnea index (AHI). At the moment, the STATDDS Bruxism and Sleep Monitor is the only device of its kind with specialized software that is specifically configured to analyze a patient’s both BEI and AHI and produce individual reports for patients and their dentists.
In addition, this monitor has been given the stamp of approval from dentists and other healthcare professionals. Dentists should routinely test their patients for bruxism and obstructive sleep apnea, and the STATDDS Bruxism and Sleep Monitor is an extremely cost-effective and results-driven technology: it can quantify the patient’s Bruxism Episodes Index (BEI) and Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI), thus providing the dentist with the information necessary to diagnose and treat their patients in the most efficient and restorative ways possible.
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Excellent article. As someone who suffers from both Bruxism and Complex Sleep Apnea (that’s both described kinds of sleep apnea, as well as an additional form that causes the breaths I DO take from being too shallow to get adequate oxygen), I would like to suggest an additional cause for the link between bruxism and Sleep Apnea that I have yet to see mentioned in any article. Let me be clear that this is ONLY from MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE and not from any scientific data.
In the pursuit of treating my Sleep Apnea I tried a few different types of masks. Some of these masks required that I wear some form of head gear to keep my jaw closed and prevent air that was blowing in my nose from coming out my mouth, thus rendering the mask ineffective. This device must hold my jaw tightly closed while I sleep and this, in my opinion, exacerbated my bruxism that had previously been mild enough to not need treatment. I have to wonder how many other people who are being treated for sleep apnea have run into this same issue, but possibly not even made the correlation, or, if they did, maybe didn’t mention it to the doctors. It just seems logical to me that if a strap is holding your jaw tightly closed and you are already prone to grinding and clenching, you will do what comes naturally in your sleep.