Did you know that one of the leading causes of bruxism (teeth grinding) is sleep apnea? When you reach the deep sleep stage, your body’s muscles relax, and that includes your neck, throat and the jaw muscles, which keep your airways open as you sleep.
It isn’t a problem as long as the throat stays open so that you can breathe. But with sleep apnea, the throat muscles relax enough to let the tissues block the airway, resulting in breathing interruptions. That’s when the brain attempts to open the airway back up by clenching and grinding your teeth, leaving you with sore teeth and jaws.
Both sleep apnea and bruxism are sleep disorders. Sleep apnea can arise when people are overweight, especially if they have a large neck, tongue, tonsils or adenoids. For those with chronic bruxism, not only is their sleep impacted, but they can experience headaches, teeth and jaw aches, inflamed gums, and TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder).
Grinding can be caused by higher than normal levels of stress or anxiety, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, suppressed anger, and certain antidepressants. Nighttime bruxism is often a coping strategy when you feel stressed or anxious, much in the same way that people bite their cheeks or lips or tap their teeth when nervous. Along with interrupted sleep and jaw problems, bruxism can leave you with damaged tooth enamel and loose, chipped or broken teeth.
Sleep apnea from teeth grinding affects your sleep quality, preventing you from reaching deep sleep, the stage where human growth hormone is released. Since this hormone fights off disease, burns fat, and improves memory, your body starts to suffer.
If sleep apnea isn’t treated, you are more likely to experience:
– Heart disease
– Depression and anxiety
– High blood pressure
– Increased weight
If sleep apnea is keeping you awake at night, and you resort to excess caffeine consumption to combat daytime fatigue, caffeine can trigger nighttime bruxism.
Treating sleep apnea starts with seeing a specialist for a sleep study. Once a diagnosis is made – and depending on the severity of the condition – you might be advised to wear a sleep apnea night guard that opens the airways while you sleep like a mandibular advancement device (MADs), use a CPAP machine to prevent nighttime teeth grinding, or wear a splint. Sometimes medications can help with stress and anxiety, along with stress management, relaxation techniques and behavior therapy like jaw and mouth positions.
If you need help with bruxism or sleep apnea, please give us a call today. We look forward to helping you get the quality sleep you deserve!