Nighttime Bruxism Omaha

Sleep apnea is bad enough, with its links to heart disease, dementia, and other chronic health conditions. However, many people with sleep apnea suffer additional conditions, including nighttime bruxism, sometimes called sleep bruxism. Bruxism is an involuntary clenching and grinding of your teeth. The condition is common for people with sleep apnea, and it can damage your teeth and jaw joints in addition to causing symptoms that radiate from the jaw to affect almost the entire body.

You don’t have to live with sleep bruxism, though. Treating sleep apnea will eliminate bruxism for many people, and even if it doesn’t, a sturdy oral appliance can protect your teeth and joints from damage.

What Is Sleep Bruxism?

Bruxism is when you clench and/or grind your teeth involuntarily. Sleep bruxism occurs at night when you are asleep.

In bruxism, the chewing muscles engage, but their motions aren’t like typical biting and chewing motions. This is partly because there is nothing to bite or chew (though sometimes you might catch the tongue or cheek in the bite). Because there’s nothing between the teeth, grinding can cause significant amounts of attrition–the type of tooth wear caused by tooth-to-tooth contact.

Although the motions caused by daytime and nighttime bruxism are similar, the conditions are separate, and people who experience one might not experience the other. Daytime is often associated with stress and anxiety, but at night it doesn’t have a direct connection. (In some cases, clenching your teeth at night is linked to alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine use, which might be related to stress and anxiety.)

Signs & Symptoms

Most summaries about the condition state that clenching your jaw at night is less common than during the day, but it is more accurate to say that sleep bruxism is less commonly diagnosed than daytime. Sleep bruxism faces the same difficulties as sleep apnea in terms of diagnosis. Since it happens during sleep, it’s harder for doctors to observe the condition directly, and people unfamiliar with the condition might be less likely to mention symptoms to their doctor.
Watch for these signs and symptoms:

  • Sore jaw, face, or neck on awakening (in the morning or at night)
  • Headaches on awakening
  • Sore teeth on awakening
  • Teeth cracking or wear
  • Grit in the mouth
  • A sleep partner reports clenching or grinding sounds
  • Biting cheek or tongue at night

If you experience these problems, you should talk to a sleep dentist in Omaha.

How Is Sleep Bruxism Linked to Sleep Apnea?

Sleep bruxism and sleep apnea have a complicated relationship that varies from person to person. For some people these are both comorbid conditions that don’t have a causal relationship. For other people, sleep apnea can cause you to grind & clench your teeth at night. Some researchers claim sleep bruxism could cause or worsen sleep apnea.

Comorbid Conditions

Sleep bruxism and sleep apnea might occur independently in people with poorly developed jaws and/or airways. At night it can sometimes be linked to temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or TMD), a condition that is common among sleep apnea sufferers.

Sleep Apnea Can Cause Sleep Bruxism

However, many studies indicate that sleep apnea can also be the cause of other conditions. This occurs when sleep apnea creates an oxygen shortage in the brain. As the brain tries to restore access to oxygen, it can clench the jaw muscles to stabilize the jaw and hold the airway open. In some studies, this relationship might account for nearly 90% of sleep bruxism events.

Sleep apnea can also cause grinding indirectly. When people experience the daytime sleepiness associated with sleep apnea, they might rely more heavily on caffeine or nicotine to stay awake through the day. Heavy use of these stimulants is linked to sleep bruxism.

Can Sleep Bruxism Cause Sleep Apnea?

A more controversial view is that sleep bruxism can cause sleep apnea. This might lead to airway restriction or congestion. Little evidence supports this theory, but it remains a possibility.

Complications of Sleep Bruxism

Left untreated, this can cause serious problems, like:

  • Damage to teeth and restorations
  • Damage to the jaw joint
  • Facial and jaw pain
  • Persistent headaches
  • New or worsening TMJ

The likelihood of these complications increases over time.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Can Relieve Bruxism

Sleep apnea treatment can improve or eliminate issue with grinding and clenching your teeth at night. In one study, treatment with CPAP all but eliminated some episodes. In any case, where bruxism is secondary to sleep apnea, we can expect similar results.

However, even if your bruxism isn’t caused by sleep apnea, treatment can still help. Sturdy oral appliances that treat sleep apnea can also help protect your teeth from the damaging effects of sleep apnea.

Get Relief from Sleep Bruxism

If you have sleep bruxism or suspect it, the sleep dentists at Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center can help. Please contact us today using our online form or call (402) 493-4175 to make an appointment at our office in Omaha.

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