Teeth grinding may seem innocent enough, but it could be an indicator of a much more serious problem.

It used to be that teeth grinding was somewhat of a mystery to many dentists and doctors. Many theorize that teeth grinding is caused by stress, but since some fetuses grind their teeth in utero, some believe that there is more to the story. New research has introduced a compelling new theory into why we grind our teeth, and believe it or not, it has helped us to find a new connection between teeth grinding and sleep apnea.

What causes you to grind your teeth at night?

When your brain starts to approach the deep sleep cycle, all of the muscles in your body will start to relax. Your jaw and tongue also relax, and since your tongue nearly doubles when it relaxes and the jaw can get very heavy, it can block your airway, making it difficult for you to breathe. This is called obstructive sleep apnea, and in one study, researchers examined a group of people who have partial blockages. They found that teeth grinding actually helped to reopen the airway, allowing the participants to breathe again. When participants started getting treatments for sleep apnea, such as dental appliances or CPAP therapy, the grinding stopped.

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What are the consequences of teeth grinding?

Because teeth grinding helps to reopen the airways, allowing for regular breathing, it may seem like a positive thing, but it does come with some consequences.

  • It robs you of deep sleep – When you tense up the muscles to grind your teeth, it prevents the body from entering the deep sleep state. Deep sleep is when your body wards off disease and repairs itself from the day.
  • It damages your jaw and teeth – Prolonged grinding can cause tooth decay and sensitivity, and it can lead to damage, as well as permanent pain, in the jaw.

If you grind your teeth, it could be a sign of sleep apnea.

While sleep apnea isn’t the only thing that could be the cause of your tooth grinding, it’s important to rule it out as a possible cause. If left untreated, sleep apnea can increase your risk for many health problems, including diabetes, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, depression, and obesity. According to The American Sleep Apnea Association, 22 million Americans are living with sleep apnea and nearly 80 percent of those cases are undiagnosed. If you think that you may have sleep apnea, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it right away.

What can our dentist in Lawrence do to treat your sleep apnea?

If you do have sleep apnea, it’s essential that you find a treatment option that works for you. CPAP therapy is by far the most commonly used treatment option for sleep apnea, but it involves a cumbersome mask and a large, noisy machine that many people just don’t like using. Our dentist offers an effective alternative to CPAP therapy that can get you the sleep apnea treatment you need comfortably.

Visit us online today to learn more about our sleep apnea treatment.