Black-and-white closeup photo of a woman's face. The nose is a key airway component.

Many people don’t associate breathing issues with dental symptoms, but recent advances in dentistry have revealed that clenching or grinding your teeth, especially in your sleep, could be a sign of a breathing disorder. Why does this happen, and what’s the most effective way to treat it? Gio Iuculano, DDS has some helpful information.

How common are clenching and grinding?

Both of these are surprisingly common issues, and many patients with these conditions don’t realize it unless someone tells them. “Within our practice, 40% of the work we do is related to this. If you are aware or suspect that you have one or both of these conditions, a specially trained dentist can confirm it and recommend corrective measures,” says Dr. Gio.

How would my teeth reveal that I might be clenching or grinding?

Dentists can recognize signs in your mouth, such as recessed gums, teeth with worn surfaces, or dental work that isn’t lasting as long as it should. Many headaches, sore facial muscles, neck pain, and shoulder pain also derive from this condition. Clenching, grinding, and gum recession are all related to airway issues.

If I have a breathing issue, why is it affecting my teeth this way?

“It’s my belief that when your brain realizes that it needs more oxygen as you sleep, it prompts you to move your lower jaw forward in an effort to try to open the airway in the back of your throat,” says Dr. Gio. “As you thrust your jaw forward with your mouth still closed, the upper and lower teeth brush against each other. This action causes them to wear down.”

Do most patients with these conditions also snore at night?

Yes, snoring is prevalent in patients with clenching, bruxism, and airway problems.

Take our related sleep assessment.

Could my bruxism lead to a TMJ disorder?

Over time, it could. Years’ worth of clenching and grinding create forces that can damage jaw joints, creating changes in the bones and repositioning of the disk within the joint.

Should I solve the breathing or dental problem first? Is there a single solution for both issues?

The good news is that since these issues are interrelated, a specially trained dentist can treat them both at once. There are several approaches to correcting the problem. The causes of these issues vary, so the treatment depends on specific details. At Winchester Dental, we have many years’ worth of training and experience in treating these issues. We will evaluate you fully using the latest technology and make a recommendation according to your specific needs.