Are Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and Teeth Grinding Related?
Obstructive sleep apnoea and sleep-related bruxism are two serious problems that can affect your health and your well-being. Though you may not immediately think to consult a private dental clinic, your dentist can help! Explore the link between apnoea, bruxism and sleep disorder dentistry with The Dental Boutique.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is the involuntary clenching of the jaw or grinding of the teeth.
Teeth grinding usually happens at night when you can’t consciously prevent it, which is why it can also be called sleep bruxism.
Symptoms of Bruxism
If you find yourself waking up with unexplained headaches, jaw pain or aches in the neck, it may be due to clenching your jaw during the night.
Whether or not you’re able to tell that you grind your teeth, a dentist trained in this area will be able to spot it right away. Bruxism is most commonly discovered by a partner, who can hear the loud teeth-grinding noises at night, or at a regular check-up at the dental clinic.
The teeth grinding is often very harsh on the surfaces of the teeth, leaving tell-tale erosion and scrape marks. Left untreated, tooth grinding can damage the teeth to the point of cracking, loosening or even breaking teeth.
Bruxism as a Symptom
Teeth grinding may itself be a symptom, with the underlying cause being sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea is when breathing slows during sleep to the point of pausing or stopping. It is caused by an obstruction of the upper airways.
As well as teeth grinding, other symptoms of sleep apnoea include sensitivity in the teeth or an ache in the muscles of the face, jaw, head or neck. It can also lead to raw, dry gums, lips or throat.
The Link with Sleep Apnoea
The jury is still out as to why teeth grinding and sleep apnoea are linked. One theory, however, is that the disruption to breathing caused by sleep apnoea raises the heart and respiratory rates, and stress hormones flood into the blood. This triggers the stress response, which then manifests across the entire body. One of these manifestations is a teeth-grinding reflex.
Another theory is that, when tissues of the upper airways collapse in sleep apnoea, the brain is triggered to tighten the jaw muscles in an attempt to stabilise the airways. This may be what drives the clenching.
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