Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Just because it's on the internet doesn't mean it's (completely) true

I just read an article on cnn.com that states if you grind your teeth at night (also known as bruxism) that is a "major indication" of obstuctive sleep apnea.  The article also goes on to state the following:

"Sufferers of sleep apnea never get the benefits of the deepest stages of sleep, which is what reverses the aging process and repairs tissue damage. After just one night of the lack of deep sleep that the body craves, you awake in a damaged state. Cumulative damage could lead to expression of the Alzheimer's gene, high blood pressure, depression, mood disorders, suppression of the immune system, diabetes, cancer and weight gain."

That's some pretty scary words that are intended to evoke an emotional response from the reader, and the hope is that you will call your dentist immediately asking to be checked for bruxism so that you can avoid any of the POTENTIAL long term affects of sleep apnea.

So what are the points that I am trying to make?  The first point is people grind their teeth for different reasons.  In some, it is a response to stress, in others the muscles that help you move your jaw are trying to position it a certain way, and in others it MAY be related to sleep apnea.  

The second point is that there are also other possible reasons besides grinding your teeth for a person to have sleep apnea. Some of those reasons include the following: the person may be overweight; the person may have a small airway in the throat, large tonsils, or even narrow or small airways in the nose; the person's jaw may slide back into the throat when they are sleeping causing the airway to become smaller.

Diagnosing problems in dentistry, and medicine, cannot always be solved by using the equation A=B; where "A" causes "B".  Sometimes it can, but most times there is more than one cause of a problem; and just because you have one cause does not mean it's causing the problem you are having.  In other words, just because you grind your teeth does not mean you have sleep apnea.  You may have one, or both, but just because you grind ("A"), does not mean you have sleep apnea ("B").

If you are concerned that you may have sleep apnea, what should you do? Come see me or your physician.  We can then prescribe for you to have a sleep study.  This is the only way to diagnose if you have sleep apnea.  If you are concerned that you grind your teeth, what should you do?  Come see me, and we will figure out what's causing it together.

Here is the link to the article on ccn.com: http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/16/health/dental-screening/index.html?hpt=hp_c4