Unless you have a sleep partner, you might not be aware that you have a sleep problem and could very well be struggling with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and sleep-related bruxism. OSA affects your nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. It can arise because of your family tree, your environment, weight, neck and head anatomy, and even your sleep position.
Bruxism arises from physical, psychological, and genetic factors such as stress, age, personality, medications, smoking, caffeine consumption, family history, or health problems. Because we have patients struggling with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), we are not surprised to see that some of them have both OSA and sleep-related bruxism, especially since OSA is one of the risk factors for bruxism related to sleep.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
For patients with OSA, this means they have trouble getting enough oxygen while they sleep. Their sleep partner might be reporting the following symptoms (making it challenging to get a good night’s rest as well for them):
- Loud snoring
- Interruptions in breathing
OSA and Sleep Bruxism Linked
For people with sleep-related bruxism, it involves repetitive jaw-muscle movement while they sleep, so they often find themselves grinding, clenching, or doing both. And while it isn’t necessarily the case for people struggling with bruxism to also find themselves with sleep apnea, there may be a link between sleep bruxism and OSA. It is especially relevant since there is a higher than expected number of people struggling with sleep-related bruxism and OSA together.
If your airway constricts while you are sleeping due to OSA, your mouth muscles might open, so you grind your teeth. Or, the body might also be responding to sleep apnea as the back of your throat dries out, hence the clenching and grinding to create saliva flow. Sleep bruxism may contribute to sleep apnea. It is particularly so as your nervous system sends signals to the heart, affecting its rate as well as the jaw muscles and nasal passages for breathing. It could leave you grinding your teeth, congested and with a restricted airway.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Sleep Bruxism
But while these may be related, there is no hard proof that sleep-related bruxism and OSA are dependent upon each other but are coming about on their own. You might grind your teeth before or after your breathing is interrupted, grind your teeth, or have interrupted breathing by themselves. Since there’s still much to learn about both of these conditions, if you find yourself with obstructive sleep apnea or sleep-related bruxism (or both), it might help you to be aware of it and keep a lookout for the other.
Treating sleep apnea with a positive airway pressure (PAP) device can often treat sleep bruxism effectively as well. Additionally, an oral appliance like a mandibular advancement device (MAD), which keeps the tongue and lower jaw pushed forward, can work for both OSA and sleep bruxism. If you are having problems with sleep apnea, we welcome you to learn more by reaching out to our experienced team. A sleep study can help get you back on track to a good night’s sleep again!