You expect to feel rested after a night’s sleep. If you consistently wake feeling like you haven’t gotten any rest, you might have sleep apnea.
Our Dr. J. Derek Tieken can screen you for sleep apnea by providing you with a test you can do at home. If signs point to sleep apnea, he can create a custom mouthguard that can alleviate your symptoms.
To schedule an appointment with him in our League City, TX dentist office, call 281-942-6615.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
What is sleep apnea anyway? It’s a sleep disorder characterized by frequently interrupted breathing during sleep. Some sleep apnea sufferers stop breathing as many as hundreds of times while they sleep. This is serious because it robs your brain of oxygen.
There are two types of sleep apnea:
- Your airway is obstructed when the tissue in the back of your throat relaxes. This is called obstructive sleep apnea and is the most common form of the disorder.
- Your brain doesn’t signal your body to breathe. This is called central sleep apnea.
In addition to depriving you of rest, sleep apnea has been linked to many serious health problems. Among them:
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeats and other heart problems
Sleep Apnea Symptoms, Risk Factors
Sleep apnea sufferers often first suspect something is wrong when their partner tells them they can hear them frequently gasping for breath during the night.
Other common sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Waking with a dry or sore throat
- Loud snoring
- Frequent bouts of insomnia
- Waking with a headache
- Sleepiness while driving or during other activities
One of the biggest risk factors for sleep apnea is obesity. Sleep apnea is also more common in men than in women. Other risk factors include:
- Adults over age 40
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- A large neck (17-plus inches for men, more than 16 inches for women)
- A small upper airway
- A large tongue, tonsils, or uvula
- A deviated septum
Sleep Apnea’s Connection to Bruxism
Both sleep apnea and bruxism (unconsciously grinding, gnashing, or clenching your teeth together) are considered sleep-related movement disorders. They are characterized by cardiac and respiratory systems that show increases in activity while sleeping. The increases are frequently accompanied by increased muscle activity.
This kind of muscle activity may cause some people to involuntarily clench their jaws. Doctors also believe that some bruxism sufferers may clench their jaw muscles as an unconscious response to the lack of airflow caused by their blocked airway.
Left untreated, teeth grinding can cause dental damage resulting in loose, worn-down, or even broken teeth. It also causes headaches and has been linked to TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders.
According to the Bruxism Association, around 70 percent of bruxism cases are associated with stress or anxiety. It is also found more often in competitive “Type A” personalities. Using psychiatric medications to treat anxiety or depression can contribute to bruxism, as can using tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine.
Other conditions frequently found in bruxism sufferers include acid reflux in the esophagus and misaligned upper and lower teeth.
Like sleep apnea, those with bruxism may be tipped off by their partners, who hear them grinding their teeth in their sleep. In addition, bruxism sufferers often wake up with a sore jaw and/or a headache.
Signs of bruxism may be seen during your regular dental exams, as your teeth can shown signs of abnormal wear and tear. Dr. Tieken can provide you with equipment you can use at home to help determine how much you are clenching or grinding your teeth while you sleep.
Custom Mouthguards Can Help
Custom mouthguards can provide relief for both bruxism and sleep apnea. They gently shift your jaw into a position that keeps your airway open and also pulls your tongue forward to keep it from blocking your airway.
Many sleep apnea sufferers find custom mouthguards a preferable alternative to a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, another common form of sleep apnea treatment. CPAP machines involve wearing a mask over your nose and/or mouth, while a continuous flow of air is delivered through a hose. They can be unwieldy and uncomfortable.
Tips for Better Rest
Both sleep apnea and bruxism sufferers can get a better night’s sleep if they stop smoking and avoid using alcohol and caffeine, especially close to bedtime.
Your sleep position can contribute to both conditions too. Sleep apnea sufferers should avoid sleeping on their back. In contrast, bruxism sufferers may find that sleeping on their back helps stop their grinding.
Ready for a better night’s sleep? Call Tieken Smiles Dentistry at 281-942-6615 to meet with Dr. Tieken in our League City, TX dentist office.