Sleep Apnea and Bruxism

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What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which patients have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. These pauses can last from a few seconds to several minutes, occurring 30 times or more per hour. Typically, normal breathing starts again in conjunction with a loud snort, choking, or gasping sound.

Sleep apnea is generally a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts sleep. When breathing pauses or becomes shallow, the level of sleep often shifts from deep into light, resulting in poor quality of rest. Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Medical professional usually can’t detect the condition during routine office visits. Most people who have sleep apnea are unaware they have it because it only occurs during sleep.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In this condition, the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. This causes shallow breathing or breathing pauses. When trying to breathe, any air that squeezes past the blockage causes loud snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight, but can affect anyone.

A dentist or physician may recommend a home-based sleep test with a portable monitor. The portable monitor will record important information to help diagnose sleep apnea. The home monitor will measure and record the amount of oxygen in your blood, air movement through your nose, heart rate, chest movements associated with breathing and clenching/grinding of teeth. The results will help determine the best method of treatment.

What is Sleep Bruxism?

Sleep bruxism, also known as nocturnal tooth grinding, is the medical term for clenching or grinding teeth during sleep. This type of movement disorder occurs during sleep is a common among adults, adolescents and children. 60% of all bruxism cases are related to underlying airway issues including sleep apnea. Occasional bruxism may not be harmful but when it becomes a regular occurrence, it may be associated with moderate to severe dental damage, facial pain, and disturbed sleep patterns.

The causes of bruxism are vast; studies have linked it with factors such as anxiety, stress, alcohol, smoking, caffeine, sleep apnea, snoring and daytime fatigue. The uses of certain medications are also associated with episodes of bruxism. An important link is that between sleep apnea and sleep bruxism, evidence has suggested treating sleep apnea may also alleviate sleep bruxism.

People who have sleep bruxism may also suffer from headaches, earaches, facial/jaw pain, TMJ disorder and damaged teeth. Sleep bruxism may also be linked with other medical conditions, affecting overall quality of life.

Sleep Apnea and Sleep Bruxism Treatment Options

Oral Appliances:

Oral appliances come in various shapes and sizes. The oral appliances for treating sleep apnea, bruxism, and snoring are specially designed for that purpose. The appliance is worn in the mouth during sleep. Most of these appliances work by repositioning the lower jaw slightly forward. This small change is, in many people, enough to keep the airway open during sleep. Many authorities recommend routine assessment for sleep apnea after oral appliance therapy has been applied.

Positive Airway Pressure Devices:

Positive airway pressure machines, sometimes called CPAP machines, are used with a variety of breathing masks – this type of treatment is widely used for moderate and severe sleep apnea. A mask fitting over the nose or nose and mouth is worn during sleep, the machine forces pressurized air flows into the patient’s throat. The pressurized air keeps oxygen flowing and prevents the airway from collapsing. The effects of PAP therapy have proven – when patients consistently use their machines they feel better and, as a result of the reduction of apnea and hypopnea episodes, they encounter fewer complications of the disease.

Home Sleep Study:

A cost-effective and patient-friendly option for diagnosing sleep apnea and or bruxism is the home study sleep test. These tests are able to collect information based on a typical night’s sleep in the comfort of your home. Home sleep study’s measures oxygen levels, masseter muscle activity for bruxism, pulse, airflow, snoring, chest movement and body position. Information is recorded and downloaded into a preliminary report. The report is interpreted by a board certified sleep physician, based on the results; the treating clinician is able to develop a treatment plan.

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