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TMJ, Bruxism, and Sleep Apnea

A chief concern of patients, especially as they age, is that their teeth are chipping, seem shorter or thinner, or more yellow or translucent. The teeth may appear flat or have little divots at the gumline. Perhaps you’ve even been told that you “brush too hard.” All the above are indications of bruxism, “teeth grinding.”

There are numerous causes for clenching and grinding including: spinal alignment, sleep apena, neurologic issues, stress, and TMJ abnormalities and/or muscles tension, to name a few. My goal as a dentist is always to protect the teeth from breakage and trauma, but all splints and night guards are not created equal. Understanding a patient’s unique triggers and pathways are crucial to selecting the correct appliance and preserving the structural integrity of one’s teeth and overall health.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a common and a serious factor for many bruxers. Obstructive sleep apnea affects roughly 30 million Americans, however less than 10% have been diagnosed, and of those, less than 25% have been successfully treated. Moderate to severe sleep apnea triples the stroke risk in men, is an independent risk factor for hypertension, and left untreated can take 12 years off your life. If we have a suspicion that a patient may be suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea we do a very thorough analysis, including an at home sleep study designed for dentists. It not only monitors oxygen levels, but it tells us if any bruxism is related to obstructive sleep apnea, and also when, and in what manner, the patient is clenching and grinding. After reviewing the data, we are able to select the correct appliance or work with one’s medical doctor, as appropriate. Dr. Andrea Mustian is certified in the Treatment of Bruxism and Sleep Medicine from the American Academy of Facial Esthetics.