We always have your well being at heart, we screen our patients for bruxism, snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.In order to achieve a restful sleep and alleviate nighttime clenching and grinding, it’s important to understand the relationship between snoring, obstructive sleep apnea and bruxism.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
This occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. These muscles support the soft palate, the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate (uvula), the tonsils, the side walls of the throat and the tongue.
When the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in. You can't get enough air, which can lower the oxygen level in your blood. Your brain senses your inability to breathe and briefly rouses you from sleep so that you can reopen your airway. This awakening is usually so brief that you don't remember it.
You might snort, choke or gasp. This pattern can repeat itself five to 30 times or more each hour, all night, impairing your ability to reach the deep, restful phases of sleep.
Snoring is caused by partial obstruction of the upper airway. During the sleep cycle, the muscles of the throat soften, and the tongue relaxes, narrowing the airway. When a breath is taken in, the walls of the throat begin to vibrate, leading to the sound recognized as snoring. The narrower this passageway becomes, the greater the vibration and the louder the snore. Loud snoring not only interrupts the bed partner’s sleep cycle but may also be a sign of a medical condition. Snoring, especially loud snoring, is associated with obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep bruxism, characterized by grinding or clenching of the teeth, is considered a sleep-related movement disorder, and not a breathing disorder. Patients with bruxism may unconsciously clench or grind their teeth while awake or asleep. In OSA sufferers, bruxism may be an unconscious response to the collapsed airway, as jaw muscles are tightened in an effort to prevent the restriction of airflow.
Chronic grinding and clenching of the jaw during sleep can create serious oral health problems, including misalignment of the dental bite, temporomandibular joint disorder, and chipped, cracked or fractured teeth. Signs of grinding the teeth while asleep include headaches upon waking, shoulder and neck pain, and spasm of the jaws.
While many options are available to treat OSA, including oral appliance therapy, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, and surgical measures, many patients either cannot tolerate or are unwilling to use the CPAP device, or are not recommended for surgical measures. Ultimately, upon proper diagnosis, a customized oral appliance can lead to a successful, minimally invasive treatment outcome.