Tooth Wear Research Suggests a Direct Correlation in Tooth Grinding, and Sleep Problems.
What Happens When I Sleep?
When sleeping muscle tone is relaxed and as you drift into deep sleep the only muscles that are not paralyzed are the muscles of eye movement and the diaphragm. This allows for REM Sleep and the ability to properly inhale and exhale. This paralyzed muscle state allows the throat to collapse and snoring to get louder. Loud Snoring is the result of air turbulence as we try to inhale. As muscle tone relaxes, the tongue, soft palate, and throat close down making it difficult to breathe. Your throat space closes, snoring increases and your air flow is restricted until your brain tells your muscles in your jaw to clench the teeth together. Bruxism or clenching of the teeth and the associated tooth wear that comes from grinding, is a reflexive action to pull your tongue forward and help open the airway for better breathing while sleeping (similar to the opening the airway with a head tilt chin lift to start CPR). Tooth Wear, Bruxism, and keeping your partner awake at night may not be your only problems, though.
The throat space may obstruct completely during sleep. A full airway obstruction is much like choking! The snoring will stop! Jerky body movements, restless legs, and gasping may accompany sudden awakening! These events are serious Airway Apneas that, when they happen often enough, will cause the blood oxygen level to drop. When the O2 saturation goes down; because of repeated airway obstructing events during the night, the person is at serious risk for cardiac events like heart attack or stroke and should be treated immediately!
What is the treatment?
OAT or Oral Appliance Therapy is the treatment of choice for Snorers with Mild to Moderate Apneas, and can be a second-line defense for Severe snorers and Apnea patients when CPAP has failed. Oral Appliance Therapy is non-surgical requiring only an impression or digital scan of your teeth, and in some cases is covered by medical insurance. Schedule an airway and sleeping evaluation today!