Conditions That Dentists Watch for in Patients

Your dentist watches for signs of sleep apnea and teeth grinding

Are you one of those people that struggles to stay awake during the day? Or, do you consistently suffer from headaches, or have pain in your jaw? You’re probably wondering, “What does this have to do with a dental practice’s blog?” – right? Turns out these symptoms are connected with two conditions that dentists watch for in their patients – sleep apnea and teeth grinding/clenching. And, while they’re conditions that people commonly deal with, most likely these conditions haven’t been formally diagnosed.

Sleep Apnea

You’ve probably heard of this one before – it’s a sleep disorder that happens when people stop or have trouble breathing when they sleep. Normal breathing begins again with a loud snort or gasping sound. Because it’s a regularly recurring condition, it causes people to lose sleep and regularly be sleepy throughout the day.

Two types of sleep apnea exist:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea – Commonly referred to as “OSA,” obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. It’s caused when the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapse, causing the airway to become obstructed.
  2. Central sleep apnea – With this form of sleep apnea, the brain forgets to communicate with the muscles to breathe, and is caused by an unstable respiratory control center.

Sometimes, sleep apnea can be treated with a weight loss program, or cutting back on things like alcohol, cigarettes, or avoiding the use of sleeping pills. People may even be able to alleviate sleep apnea by changing their sleeping position or wearing a device fabricated by their dentist. For more severe cases, patients may need to be treated with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), or even surgery to correct things that would be causing sleep apnea.

Teeth Grinding

You may hear your dentist refer to teeth grinding as bruxism, and like sleep apnea, it commonly occurs during sleep. More than half of the cases are related to issues with a person’s airway, and can be associated with moderate to severe dental damage. Other causes of teeth grinding include abnormal bite or missing/broken teeth, stress, or anxiety.

Most people don’t know that they grind their teeth at night – some may learn about it from their partners, but others may notice side effects. They’ll get headaches, earaches, or may experience facial or jaw pain. Some may even suffer from TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain, and may severely damage their teeth. For those that know they’re grinding their teeth at night, the most common way to combat it is by wearing a mouth guard. However, patients should consult with their dentist to learn if there’s a better option for them.

How are they related?

For those that are experiencing symptoms of teeth grinding, dentists may recommend that that they be tested for sleep apnea. Evidence has shown that treating sleep apnea may help treat and ease the symptoms associated with teeth grinding.

Want to learn more about sleep apnea or teeth grinding and how they can affect your overall and dental health? Drs. Schuyler Van Gorden and Rebecca Steinbach can help you diagnose and treat the symptoms associated with them. Contact Elevate Dental Wellness in Basalt at 970.279.5647, or visit us online at!