Your dentist can help you keep your smile healthy and bright, but did you know that dentists can also play an important role in keeping your body healthy? By keeping an eye out for the signs of bruxism, or teeth grinding, your dentist can detect clues that you might be experiencing a potentially dangerous disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when the tongue softens during sleep and moves towards the back of the airway. During sleep, the mandible also has a tendency to retract as the face muscles relax, which causes further regression of the tongue towards the back of the throat.
In people with narrow craniofacial anatomy, this can lead to the blocking of the airways during sleep. This blockage causes you to pause in breathing, which is known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea reduces the restorative quality of sleep and can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, trouble concentrating, headaches, dry mouth, and even raises the risk of developing serious conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a clenching and grinding of teeth during sleep that can lead to broken teeth, damaged tooth enamel, headaches, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Although almost everyone clenches or grinds their teeth at some point, some people do it so frequently that it can become a serious issue. A 2004 study showed that approximately 10 percent of the adult population experiences clinically significant bruxism during sleep.
The Bruxism/Sleep Apnea Connection
So, how are the two conditions related? Doctors and dentists have discovered that, during sleep apnea episodes, one of the most common defenses against the softening of the jaw and tongue that leads to breathing pauses is to instinctively clench the teeth. This helps hold the mandible in place, which can help fight the retrusion of the tongue that leads to blocked airways. Clinical research has shown that the majority of the cases of severe nocturnal bruxism exist in conjunction with sleep apnea, and proper treatment of obstructive sleep apnea can also significantly decrease nighttime teeth clenching and grinding.
How Your Dentist Can Help
By paying close attention to the signs of bruxisum in your teeth, your dentist can determine whether or not you might be experiencing obstructive sleep apnea. In fact, in many cases, dentists are the ones to notice the potential symptoms of OSA and can advise their patients to seek medical care and a sleep study. The signs and symptoms of teeth grinding that your dentist will be on the lookout for include:
- Wearing down of the teeth
- Scalloping along the borders of the tongue
- A crowded airway
- Mouth breathing
Treatment for Sleep Apnea & Teeth Grinding
It is very important that you keep regular dental appointments so that your dentist can examine you for the signs of bruxism that might indicate sleep apnea. It is also important that you contact your dentist as soon as possible if you notice any of the signs, such as pain and stiffness in your jaw, jaw clicking, and wear on your teeth.
Dr. Kenneth J. Wolnik is committed to checking his patients for signs of bruxism and sleep apnea. He states: “I think undiagnosed sleep apnea is a huge problem. We see people with varying degrees of Bruxism every day. Now, the first question I ask them is whether they’ve ever had a sleep study done. My thought is that the body is trying to find a jaw position that allows the airway to remain open. When it cannot, the grinding starts until the individual can breathe again.”
Sleep Apnea Resources
Sleep Apnea Services in Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Dr. Wolnik offers sleep apnea services in his Parma Heights office, located in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.
Concerned you may be grinding your teeth or have other questions about your dental health? Please contact Dr. Kennth J. Wolnik online or at:
6363 York Rd, Ste 202
Parma Heights, OH 44130
Monday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Tuesday: 8:00am – 5:00pm
Thursday: 8:00am – 6:00pm
Friday: 7:30am – 1:00pm