Ohio Airway Dentist Explains The Link Between Tooth Grinding And Sleep Apnea

Bruxism or tooth grinding not only affects the health and appearance of your teeth. It can also be indicative of sleep-disordered breathing and other airway problems. At VIA Health Group in Canton, Ohio, we use 3D x-rays and further diagnostics to evaluate the condition of the jaw joints, airway, and other connected tissues and structures. Depending on what we find, a custom oral appliance may be in the future to protect teeth from damage caused by chronic teeth grinding and to open up the airway – promoting better overall health and banishing any troublesome symptoms that may be present as headaches and jaw pain.

Canton Dentist Treats Teeth Grinding

At A Cosmetic Dentistry Consultation For Her Teenage Daughter In Canton, Ohio, A Mother Made A Startling Discovery.

Although she wasn’t even supposed to be the patient that day, it would turn out to be her life that changed forever. The cosmetic dentist happened to be Dr. Jeff Danner, a certified provider of craniofacial sleep medicine. After one look at her smile, he knew just the right questions to ask to start to uncover the connection between seemingly separate symptoms, and the potentially deadly hidden cause.

I Had A Young Teenager Who Wanted Her Smile Just Like Her Mom’s.

Both mother and daughter had attractive smiles with straight and white teeth. The daughter’s teeth had typical characteristics we expect to see in a healthy, youthful smile. She had pointy canines and her two front teeth were a little bit longer than the ones on either side, the biting edges varying in length. Her mom’s smile was different, though.

The edges of her front teeth were unnaturally straight across and it looked impossible for a dentist to have made it that way. I had a hunch about what was really going on, and it concerned me, I couldn’t let it go.

A Clear Sign That Worn Teeth Are From Clenching And Grinding Is If They Match Up Like A Puzzle.

She could put her front teeth edge to edge and it matched straight across like a drawing. It might seem normal, especially for teeth that are white and straight, people don’t notice or think much about those biting edges. Her smile was pleasing, but in another five years or so with no intervention, it’s hard to say what it would look like.

If Someone Grinds Their Teeth, They Can Lose Around A Thousandth Of A Millimeter Of Their Teeth Every Day.

That adds up. After a few years, they’re going to lose a full millimeter. Teeth don’t grow back. Eventually she would likely end up with misshapen teeth that noticeably don’t look quite as good. The biting edges will change.

Dr. Jeff danner discussing with dental assistant

She’d Most Likely Develop Sensitivity And Probably End Up Needing Crowns If We Didn’t Address The Source Of The Problem.

I didn’t want to adjust the teenagers’ teeth so that they were straight across like her mother’s, and remove perfectly healthy tooth structure. I knew I needed to talk to mom about the problem that was obvious to me so I could identify the underlying cause and help prevent her from even more problems down the road. At the same time, I didn’t want to offend anyone with any comments about the aesthetics of their smile. She was here for her daughter, after all.

I Started Asking Mom Some Questions About Her Smile And About Her Health.

I broached the subject very carefully and asked some basic screening questions.

  • Are you aware of grinding your teeth at all?
  • Is your mouth, jaw, or neck ever sore?
  • How often do you feel tired?
  • How often do you have headaches?
  • Do you wake up with headaches?
  • What do you think about your smile and the way it bites together?

She said, “Oh yeah, I have headaches all the time. I’m always tired. I kind of live on energy drinks and coffee.”

Get Evaluated

It’s important to have signs and symptoms of a potential sleep breathing disorder evaluated by a knowledgeable healthcare professional.

Dr. Danner conference with patient

She Felt Fatigued Pretty Much Daily And Had Headaches, Which Signaled To Me That It’s Probably Sleep Disordered Breathing.

With sleep apnea, the body doesn’t get into the deep, regenerative sleep, causing daytime fatigue. The related clenching and grinding as well as oxygen deprivation causes headaches. As the body fights for oxygen throughout the night, it moves the jaw around. It finds the teeth and starts rubbing them together looking for the right position to open the airway.

She was fortunate that her teeth were very straight to start with. The posturing of her jaw was probably pretty much straight forward and back. A lot of people go off to one side or another and shift around, but for her the wear was pretty even. Left unaddressed, however, I’d say that in about five years, she was going to have some teeth break down as the teeth get weaker and more brittle.

I asked if she would be interested in a further evaluation and she said yes. Her teenage daughter thought it was all pretty interesting, actually. We evaluated her and looked at her jaw joints with a 3D x-ray.

Dr. Jeff Danner examining patient

We Looked At Her Airway And It Was Very Small And Narrow.

We like to see airways the size of a garden hose. Hers was very small, about the size of a straw. Her jaw joint had also changed over the years. It wasn’t a normal jaw joint. We see this oftentimes for individuals who clench and grind their teeth. Her jaw joint was misshapen and degenerated. It was definitely one of the causes of all of her discomfort. I informed her of those findings and she agreed to do a sleep study.

Her Sleep Study Confirmed That She Had Sleep Apnea And She Wasn’t Getting Enough Oxygen At Night.

She wasn’t getting enough oxygen, so her body struggled to reposition the jaw so that her airway could open up while she was sleeping. She was posturing her jaw forward every time her body wasn’t getting enough oxygen. The sleep study showed that she was clenching her teeth. There was definitely a cycle going on there where she was clenching when she wasn’t getting enough oxygen. We could fix her smile and make it look more youthful, but the big problem that she had was sleep apnea that was causing her fatigue and her headaches.

I Made Her A Custom Oral Appliance To Protect Her Teeth And Open Up Her Airway.

Often, the best treatment is to help open up the patient’s airway with a custom oral appliance. The oral appliance is essentially a custom plastic fitting that helps push the patient’s jaw forward at night and opens up the patient’s airway for better oxygen flow. We make each oral appliance with a custom fit. However, the patient does not need surgery or any invasive procedures. Oral appliances are quite elegant in their simplicity and effectiveness.

Schedule An Appointment With Dr. Danner

Dr. Danner and his team want to make it as simple as possible to know whether his technologies and expert team can help. That means no long processes or complicated hoops to jump through.

To schedule a virtual consultation appointment to address ringing in your ears, first take our pre-screen assessment here. The pre-screen assessment will help us better understand your situation so that we can make the most of your virtual consultation appointment. After you complete your pre-screen assessment, you can select a time for a virtual consultation that works for you.

Get Evaluated

It’s important to have signs and symptoms of a potential sleep breathing disorder evaluated by a knowledgeable healthcare professional.