Bruxism (Teeth Grinding) & Sleep Apnea
Our clinic does not endorse night guards for bruxism. Why? Because our practice attracts individuals with chronic stress, fatigue, and hard-hitting illness in both kids and adults, it is not uncommon to identify teeth grinding and other types of sleep tension symptoms as part of our patient’s overall presentation.
From our perspective this is not just an aside, but a huge clue to something much more concerning. If you have a night guard for grinding, or you have “grinded through” all the night appliances you’ve been given, this message for you.
Get rid of it! Unless you are absolutely sure it fits properly and accounts for any sleep apnea, disordered sleep, or the more subtle upper airway resistance syndromes (UARS) that worsen during the deepest stages of sleep, your night guard may be causing more harm than good.
I understand that the traditional approach to treating bruxism is to protect what is left of your teeth from the harsh vertical forces that occur during sleep and, in some cases, during your workday life (if you wear a daytime version). However, the problem is that your oral guard doesn’t address the root cause, and in fact, often makes grinding worse over time.
Remember, a night guard that does not take into consideration airway clearing can make grinding worse and prevent you from being able to push out your lower jaw, thereby preventing the airway from remaining open, effectively causing the vicious cycle of grinding worse and more often which is ultimately negative for your teeth, your brain, and your overall health and wellbeing.
Treating sleep apnea and disordered breathing IS the best treatment for bruxism. I can’t treat my patients’ grinding without treating the root cause of their grinding. And I can’t treat the root cause without diagnostic testing such as a home or in-lab sleep test.
Be aware, not everyone in the dental and medical field is aware of this paradigm, so just ask yourself this question…Does it make sense? It sure does and it also has proven itself in the trenches with patients in our clinic with all types of medical issues where the relative lack of oxygen during the deepest stages of sleep was one of the primary culprits fueling their chronic health problems in the first place.