Sep 01, 2021

Sleep apnea and bruxism is a disorder that affects a person differently. But the question is can one lead to the other? Well, we will find out in this article.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a type of sleep apnea(disorder) that occurs when a person’s airways are blocked or obstructed thereby interrupting the person’s sleep or causing the person to wake up at intervals to gasps for air. Bruxism, on the other hand, involves the habitual grinding of the teeth. It is an oral disorder.

People often wonder how a disorder caused by breathing problems and an oral irregularity can be related.
Well, OSA occurs when the delicate tissue at the top of the throat doesn’t open up for air to pass through the throat. While sleeping we aren’t aware of the breathing process because automatically, the brain gives the signal to the breathing muscles to breathe and supply air to our body organs. In OSA, the brain sends the signals to the breathing muscles but the breathing muscles are not able to receive the signals. When air doesn’t get inside the body for a long time, the brain then signals the person to wake up briefly so the airways can be opened up. Sometimes the person might not even be aware of this short awakening. However, the person’s sleep is interrupted and they might not get the best sleep.

Bruxism isn’t always noticed during the day. Most times people with bruxism grind their teeth or clench their jaws while they are asleep at night. Although it can happen during the day, it happens mostly at night. This kind of oral irregularity is called sleep-related bruxism or sleep bruxism.

Though sleep-related bruxism is a dental problem, it can be related to wrong sleep movements and positions of a person. It is also related to the continual movement of the jaw while the person is asleep. It makes the affected person wake up with pains in the jaw area and most times, a severe headache might kick in. The patient usually doesn’t notice this until it is addressed by the person who sleeps next to the patient or a family member who observes the intolerable noise that the patient makes while they are asleep.

During a dental examination, the dentist might notice the changes in the patient’s teeth that are caused by teeth grinding which the patient might not even know about. The dentist can also warn the patient about bruxism tendencies if they have a misaligned jaw or teeth. The dentist can also check for underlying health problems like high blood pressure or stress-related problems. These questions are being asked because patients who suffer from untreated OSA also experience the same symptoms. According to researchers, most people who suffer from OSA also suffer from bruxism.

However, it is not fully clear why both irregularities are connected, but medical researchers assume that the stress caused by an obstructed airway can cause stress in the body thereby causing the patient to clench their jaw in response to such stress.

Researchers also believe that those who snore due to OSA, or experience hypopnea (partial obstruction), might suffer from a collapsed upper airway. This will cause the brain to pass signals to the jaw to fasten its muscles so that the delicate parts of the throat can be hardened to prevent the airway tissues from collapsing and allow you to breathe without disturbing your sleep.

What Are The Treatments For Sleep Apnea and Bruxism?

It might interest you to know that sleep apnea treatments can also be used to treat sleep bruxism. Sleep apnea patients can be provided with a device called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or a dental appliance might be recommended. Should in case your bruxism is linked to OSA, a dental mouth guard might be given to you to help avoid additional injuries. This also means that sleep apnea and sleep-related bruxism can be treated with restorative appliances simultaneously.

There are also various sleep apnea treatment options that your sleep specialist can recommend to you.