Does Sleep Apnea Cause Jaw Clenching? How to Stop Clenching Your Jaw at Night?

Does Sleep Apnea Cause Jaw Clenching? How to Stop Clenching Your Jaw at Night?

May 01, 2022

Do you wake up experiencing sore jaw muscles in the morning and don’t understand why? It could be because your clench or grind your teeth during the night. Though you might feel tired throughout the day, you might not realize that it is happening while unconscious.

In some instances, it could be due to the teeth rubbing against each other due to a misaligned jaw or teeth. In others, the teeth grinding could be linked to obstructive sleep apnea. A person suffering from this wakes up frequently during the night as their respiratory system shuts down suddenly and disturbs their breathing patterns.

The National Sleep Foundation found out that one in four people with sleep apnea also shows some signs of jaw clenching.

It is clear that there is a link between night-time jaw clenching and sleep apnea. So let’s look at how both are linked and how to manage these conditions to get a good night’s sleep.

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Explain the Relation Between Sleep Apnea and Jaw Clenching

Sleep bruxism, also termed jaw clenching at night, is an oral health problem. It is also considered a sleep-related movement disorder characterized by uncontrolled and involuntary physical movement during sleep.

If your dentist observes a problem with your oral health that may suggest bruxism, they may ask you about muscular pain in the face, head, neck, jaw, or teeth sensitivity or dryness of gum, throat, or lips. They might also check your blood pressure and ask about problems with alertness and concentration while awake, stress, trouble sleeping, daytime fatigue, snoring, or even car accidents.

Why? People with sleep apnea experience many of these same signs and are also known to grind their clenched jaws at night. It is unclear how both are related, but researchers believe that the arousals caused by upper airway resistance cause a stress response that one feels throughout the body.

Once you wake up from sleep apnea, your respiratory and heart rates increase while the stress hormones flood your bloodstream. The increased muscle activity in your jaw inspired by this stress response may cause grinding or clenching.

Another theory is that, during an apnea, the tissue along with your airway collapse. Thus, it creates airway instability which provokes the brain to signal your jaw to tighten its muscles to stiffen the softer sides of your throat. Doing so can help attenuate or avoid the collapse of your airway tissue; thus, you can receive adequate airflow without interruption as you sleep.

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Tips to Stop Clenching Jaw During the Night

The following tips can help reduce your jaw clenching:

1. Exercise to relax your jaw and facial muscles

Facial exercises and jaw joint stretches can help relieve tightness in your jaw and increase your motion range. Some of these exercises include:

  • Jaw joint stretch. This helps to relax the jaw by resting the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth and lowering the bottom jaw so that the lower teeth move away from your upper teeth.
  • Smile stretch by looking at a mirror and giving your widest smile without feeling pain or tightness. While smiling, slowly open your jaw, inhale deeply via your mouth, and exhale without closing your mouth. Repeat this process severally.
  • Manual jaw opening. Open and close your mouth severally to warm up. Next, place your fingers on top of your front bottom incisor teeth. Slowly pull it down until you feel slight discomfort on the right side of the jaw. Hold this position for seconds, and slowly release your jaw back to the starting point.

2. Wearing a nightguard or a bite splint.

These two are a form of mouthguards designed to prevent damage or discomfort sustained from jaw clenching or teeth grinding by protecting your teeth while you sleep. Concerning the cause of your condition, you might need a specific type of mouthguard.

3. Give yourself a massage

Massaging your jaw can help reduce muscle tightness and increase blood flow. You can try opening your mouth and gently rubbing the muscles next to the ears in a circular manner. Do this several times a day.

If you need dentistry that offers sleep apnea treatment near you, then visit the Center for oral health.