Dr Liesel van Schalkwyk writes:
Do you have painful jaw joints, feel tired all the time and grind your teeth at night? Until recently the reason why we grind our teeth was a mystery. The working theory used to be that grinding was caused by stress, but the latest research shows that grinding is an instinctual response that helps us survive.
During deep sleep the complete muscular relaxation can cause the airway to collapse. Grinding your teeth (also known as bruxism) helps to reopen the airway. Teeth grinding is therefore a red flag for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS).
With OSA your body is deprived of deep restorative sleep where your body releases human growth hormone, reverses the ageing process, improves memory, builds muscle and burns fat.
What should you do if you grind your teeth? Previously, the preferred treatment method was for your dentist to prescribe a night guard to protect your teeth, but it fails to treat the root cause of the grinding. A night guard prevents the lower jaw from pushing forward, thereby preventing the airway from opening and effectively making your sleep apnea worse.
Untreated OSA and UARS can have serious and life-shortening consequences such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety and weight gain. If you suffer from any of these or you grind your teeth at night, please visit one of our Health Renewal doctors for an assessment and possible sleep study to exclude OSA and UARS.