Diagnosis

Understanding the Relationship Between Sleep Apnea and Teeth Grinding

sleep apnea and teeth grindingOver your lifetime, you have about a ten percent chance of developing bruxism, which is nighttime teeth grinding. This is a staggering statistic considering the negative impacts bruxism has on your dental and sleep health.

Multiple scholarly studies have shown that grinding your teeth throughout the night can be a sign of sleep apnea. However, while the threats of sleep apnea and teeth grinding are real, there are preventative measures that can be taken.

If you have sleep apnea, through the use of CPAP equipment (continuous positive airway pressure), the connected symptoms of sleep apnea and its resulting bruxism can be alleviated.

Dental Problems Associated With Sleep Apnea

You may be asking yourself, “other than bruxism can sleep apnea cause dental problems?” Absolutely. In fact, certain dental issues detected by a dental professional can lead them to recommend you talking to your doctor about your sleep.

Signs of sleep apnea can often appear when you visit your dentist. When you sleep with undiagnosed sleep apnea, your body is in a constant battle with itself to take full, deep breaths. In this struggle for air, your jaw may wriggle back and forth, causing the grinding of your teeth. When a dentist notices sections of your teeth have degraded, they will likely ask you about your sleep.

If you report less than optimal sleep, your dentist will know something is wrong.

Other dental symptoms of undiagnosed sleep apnea include aching jaw muscles or joints, pain while chewing, and chronic headaches. Ouch!

How CPAP Machines Alleviate Sleep Apnea and Teeth Grinding

Grinding your teeth and sleep apnea are connected. If you have sleep apnea, you are much more likely to grind your teeth at night. Here is how a CPAP can relieve both of these ailments.

A CPAP machine works by collecting and filtering air throughout the night to prevent your airways from being blocked. CPAP machines use room air and not direct oxygen. The CPAP machine uptakes the air and puts it through a filter. The air then creates a cushioned airway along your soft palate and tongue, giving you a better night of sleep.

This, of course, will alleviate your sleep apnea. Whew! But how does it help prevent sleep-related bruxism? By attacking the teeth grinding right at its source.

A person with sleep apnea is prone to wriggling their jaws in the struggle for air. This wriggling is what can lead to teeth grinding, called bruxism. This is the big relationship sleep apnea has to teeth grinding.

CPAP therapy treats your sleep apnea, which in turn lays rest to your bruxism if it’s caused by sleep apnea.

The Long Term Effects of Sleep Apnea and Bruxism

The harmful impacts of bruxism and sleep apnea can be lifelong. When gone untreated, sleep apnea can have dire effects on your health over time. Some of these effects include strokes, heart problems, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, adult asthma, and acid reflux.

Bruxism also has its own load of lifetime effects. When it goes untreated for a prolonged period of time, your teeth can be permanently damaged. Nighttime teeth grinding can erode the enamel of your teeth, which is the outer protective layer. Unfortunately, enamel never comes back.

Tooth erosion is extremely painful and can make eating feel excruciating. This is because as the teeth wear down, deeper layers of your teeth are revealed, increasing tooth sensitivity.

Since teeth grinding and sleep apnea are connected, your best bet is to eliminate both at the same time if you are experiencing both ailments. That is where CPAP machines come in. Talk to your doctor about the sleep problems you are experiencing.

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

The temporomandibular joint is the hingelike joint that connects your jaw to the skull. Its dysfunction, or TJD, occurs when the joint is inflamed from overuse or improper alignment. The leading cause of TJD? You guessed it, bruxism.

Think about how often you move your jaw. Every time you speak and every time you eat—it adds up. Now imagine being in chronic pain from something you cannot avoid. Fasting and taking a vow of silence does not very well fit everyday life, does it?


If you have sleep apnea, grinding your teeth at night could have been a sign. If poor sleep is keeping you from a productive day, talk to your doctor about CPAP therapy to try and alleviate the symptoms of both sleep apnea and teeth grinding.

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