Sleep, Teeth and Your Health

What happens in your mouth can affect your overall health. Disorders that disrupt sleep increase risk of health problems, anxiety and accidents. If you grind or clench your teeth at night or during the day, the strain on the muscles of your jaw, neck, head and face can cause headaches, jaw pain and other problems.

OSA Symptoms

A staggering 90 million Americans snore- and the problem is larger when you consider the sleeping partners it affects. But snoring isn’t just an annoyance. It can lead to serious health issues. Sleep disruption can cause depression, irritability, learning,memory difficulties, mental awareness/mood and excessive sleepiness while working or driving.

Loud snoring with intermittent pauses, may be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In this serious sleep disorder, air is repeatedly blocked from entering your lungs for a brief period during sleep.

When you’re awake, your tongue and the soft tissues at the back of your throat (the soft palate),uvula, and tonsils maintain an open air passage so you can breather easily. As you fall asleep, your tongue and soft palate relax. If they relax too much or drop back into your throat, they can narrow or block the airway, causing problems ranging from mild snoring to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). An oral appliance can be worn while you sleep to help.
OSAThe tongue and soft tissues block (obstruct)air from entering your lungs. If the amount of oxygen in your blood drops too low, your brain alerts your body to unblock the airway by tightening the throat muscles. You partially awaken, and the flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp or snort.
If your sleep is restless and you often wake up with a loud gasp or snort, you may have obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when your tongue and soft tissues block your upper airway,resulting in pauses in your breathing. If the amount of oxygen in your blood drops too low, your brain alerts your body to unblock the airway by tightening the throat muscles. You partially awaken, and the flow of air starts again, usually with a gasp or snort.

More than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea.The related lack of sleep dramatically increases risk of:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke, heart attack, and other heart problems
  • Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders
  • Driving and work-related accidents
About 8 percent of adults grind their teeth, a condition called bruxism. Even more people clench which means you tightly clamp your top and bottom teeth together, especially the back teeth. Both may be triggered by daily stress.

The force of grinding or clenching puts pressure on the muscles, tissues and other structures around your jaw. This can lead to jaw joint disorders, jaw pain, soreness, headaches, earaches, damaged teeth and other problems. These symptoms are often referred to together as “TMJ” or temporomandibular joint disorders.

Migraine headaches affect 36 million Americans, or more than 1 in 10 people. One often unrecognized trigger for migraines is teeth clenching and grinding,which strains the muscles of the head, neck and face.

Nearly half of all migraines occur during the morning.If you wake up with a headache, you may be clenching or grinding your teeth at night.

Treating OSA

A variety of treatments are available:

Lifestyle changes: Losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sedatives, not smoking, controlling allergens, following good sleep habits, and sleeping on your side can decrease the severity of obstructive sleep apnea and snoring.

Positional therapy: Sleeping on your side can help keep the airway open during sleep. Placing a wedge-shaped pillow behind your back can help.

CPAP machine: Continuous positive airway pressure(CPAP) forces pressurized air from bed side machine through a mask into your nose and throat to keep the air passage open while you sleep. CPAPis an effective treatment for moderate to severeOSA.

Surgery: Removing tissues in the throat can help create a more open airway.