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OSA is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder, with one study estimating that one billion people are affected by it worldwide.2 People with OSA experience breathing interruptions while sleeping due to airway obstructions.
Sleep-related bruxism is the habit of grinding your teeth while sleeping. Up to 31% of adults grind their teeth while asleep, but it’s especially common in people with OSA.3
Studies have found that around one-third of people with OSA grind their teeth during sleep.4 However, the link between obstructive sleep apnea and teeth grinding remains unclear.
One theory suggests an airway obstruction can cause an arousal response such as tooth grinding.5
An airway obstruction occurs when someone’s tongue or other soft tissues block their throat. Their body responds with a micro-arousal to restart breathing, triggering the nervous system and stimulating muscle activity.
People with sleep apnea experience these repetitive micro-arousals without fully waking throughout the night. Bruxism may be part of their body’s attempt to breathe again after airway obstruction.
Sleep bruxism refers to the grinding of the teeth at night. It’s a common habit that doesn’t always indicate the presence of sleep apnea, though sleep bruxism is more common in people with sleep apnea.
Signs of sleep bruxism include:
While the presence of sleep bruxism doesn’t always indicate OSA, consult a doctor if you notice significant bruxism-related symptoms.
It’s unclear who’s more likely to develop sleep apnea and bruxism simultaneously. However, they share many common risk factors, including:
There are many different treatments for sleep bruxism, including:
If you have obstructive sleep apnea, treating it can relieve and prevent nighttime teeth grinding and clenching.
The most common and effective treatment for OSA is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. A CPAP machine sends air into your nose or mouth via a tube and a mask. You’ll need to wear this mask all night to prevent airway obstruction.
PAP therapy is highly effective, but people often stop using their machines because it’s uncomfortable and bulky.6
Wearing a mouthguard can prevent teeth damage from grinding or clenching. The most common oral appliances for bruxism are:
Making a few tweaks to your routine can drastically improve your sleep hygiene. Some tips for practicing better sleep habits include:
If you’re taking medication that interferes with sleep, consult your doctor about possible alternatives. Improving nasal allergies can also help with sleep.
Snoring isn’t always a sign of an underlying issue. It can occasionally happen due to a sinus infection, alcohol use, etc.
However, chronic snoring is a common symptom of OSA. In addition, studies have demonstrated that snoring and teeth grinding often go together.7
You may want to consult with a doctor if you or your partner notice those two symptoms together regularly, along with symptoms like:
These signs may point to obstructive sleep apnea, which requires treatment.
Many people with obstructive sleep apnea grind their teeth at night. While the precise link is unclear, bruxism may result from a micro-arousal when the airway is obstructed.
You don’t necessarily have OSA if you grind your teeth during sleep. However, if you have breathing issues at night, snore regularly, and experience daytime sleepiness, you may wish to consult a doctor about sleep apnea.
Treatments for sleep-related bruxism include treating sleep apnea, wearing oral devices like nightguards, and making lifestyle changes.
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