Grinding Teeth and Sleep Apnea

If you discover you are experiencing bruxism, it is important to know that this may be an indication of a much more serious problem. A study published in the December, 2014 edition of Sleeping and Breathing reported a clear correlation between obstructive sleep apnea events and sleep bruxism. It has also been demonstrated that successful treatment of obstructive sleep apnea reduces or eliminates sleep bruxism in those patients that suffer from both problems.

Bruxism is defined as abnormal grinding or clenching of the muscles we use the chew our food. This behavior is described as a “parafunctional habit” which is defined as a movement or activity of a body part outside of the normal use or function of that anatomical area. The two types of bruxism are described as sleep bruxism and awake bruxism.

The incidence of bruxism is reported between 8% and 31% of adults in the United States, but many individuals are unaware of the habit because it most commonly occurs while sleeping and produces no symptoms. Often patients discover this habit when a sleeping partner observes the activity, when the dentist notes abnormal wearing of the patient’s teeth, or when the patient begins to experience facial pain from muscle spasm associated with the grinding.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder in which the airway required for breathing relaxes and collapses during deeper stages of sleep. The individual suffering with this problem will have a decrease in oxygen supply to the body, and an increase in carbon dioxide that is normally exhaled. As a result, the body reflexively emerges from sleep and the patient partially awakens. This may happen more than 40 times per hour in severe cases.

Obstructive sleep apnea patients may be aware of other symptoms

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Frequent headaches

Obstructive Sleep Apnea increases risk of major medical problems and shortens life span

  • 67% higher incidence of stroke
  • 34% greater incidence of heart attack
  • 40% greater risk of high blood pressure
  • Up to 20% reduction in life expectancy
  • 46% greater likelihood of premature death from all causes

Although the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and sleep bruxism is not fully understood, the important point for the patient is that if you or a loved one are experiencing sleep bruxism, you should discuss with your doctor whether or not this problem may be a sign of undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea. Proper diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea may save a life.

If you have further questions

The surgeons of the Surgical Arts Centre in Missoula, Montana have expertise in the surgical correction of obstructive sleep apnea. If you would like more information, call today to schedule a consultation. (406) 549-6600

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