That embarrassing snoring habit your spouse complains about during family gatherings may have something in common with the worn down teeth the dentist is always harassing you about at checkups. Both of these seemingly harmless habits may be symptoms of a serious health problem, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Research presented at the 2009 American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) showed that 1 in 4 patients suffering from OSA also suffered from nocturnal bruxism, commonly known as nighttime teeth grinding. It is estimated that approximately 10% of the US population suffers from bruxism which can lead to migraines, tension-type headaches, TMJ pain, and cracked or worn teeth.
More than 30 million Americans suffer from OSA. The comorbidities associated with the disease are very serious, including increased risk of stroke and heart attack, GERD, and erectile dysfunction. During apneic episodes, sufferers cease breathing for 10 seconds or more and this happens repeatedly during the sleep cycle.
According to Dr. Shyam Subramanian, MD, “The relationship between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and sleep bruxism is usually related to an arousal response. The ending of an epneic event may be accompanied by a number of mouth phenomena, such as snoring, gasps, mumbles, and teeth grinding… High levels of anxiety can lead to bruxism and untreated sleep apnea is known to cause mood disturbances including depression.”
Bruxism during sleep may be treated with dental splints such as the NTI-tss Plus which is worn over the four front teeth and has been approved by the FDA for the prevention of migraine and tension-type headaches.
OSA may be treated with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or dental appliances such as the TAP or EMA, both FDA approved for the treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. If you are snoring or grinding your teeth, make an appointment with your health care provider. These seemingly harmless nuisances may have grave consequences if left untreated.