Something to Chew On
Sleep? What is that?


Sleep and its role in the quality of your life…


Have you ever thought about the value of sleep and the impact lack of sleep has on one’s life?  By definition, the word “sleep” means a period of rest for the body and mind, during which volition and consciousness are in abeyance and bodily functions are partially suspended; also described as a behavioral state, with characteristic immobile posture and diminished but readily reversible sensitivity to external stimuli.  Wow!  Sounds very complex doesn’t it?  Proper sleep is so vital to one’s health that without a proper sleep pattern one’s quality of life is diminished.  Regular amounts of sleep are vital to your health, happiness, social life and success.

Someone suffering from a sleep disorder may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

·         Snoring

·         Sleepier than expected during the day

·         Problems falling asleep easily

·         Has trouble staying asleep

·         Clenches and grinds teeth while asleep

·         Moves around a lot while sleeping

·         Sleepwalks or talks in sleep

·         Has frequent nightmares

·         Poor concentration

·         Behavioral problems in school

·         Memory problems

If you or anyone you know suffers from these symptoms it might be time to have a consultation with a sleep specialist.  The majority of people with sleep disturbances clench and grind their teeth in search of proper air.  Many times this habit known as “Bruxism” goes unnoticed.  It is very common for people to have anatomical constriction associated with breathing. As a result, the brain tells the teeth to grind together and move around in order to widen the space for air to pass through.


Some causes of constricted airway space include:

·         Large tonsils

·         Forward posturing of the neck

·         TMJ disorder

·         Whiplash/Neck trauma

·         Missing back teeth

·         Under developed mandible (lower jaw)

·         Overly large tongue

·         Narrow Maxilla (upper jaw)

·         Facial trauma


Most people I treat with TMJ disorders almost always present with sleep disorders as well. The body will do whatever it has to in order to breath in air. This normally includes clenching and grinding the teeth to find a path for air to pass through.  Sleeping on one’s side or tossing and turning while asleep. Posturing the neck and lower jaw forward are also common habits people have in order to open the airway space near the back of the throat.  Breathing through the mouth is also a very good sign that someone suffers from an airway constriction and a sleep disorder. 

A receded lower jaw (mandible) with a large overjet of the upper front teeth normally appears in people who have sleep disturbances and can usually be detected in very young children.  Treatment for sleep disorders can vary depending on the accuracy of the diagnosis.  Many people with sleep disorders benefit from orthotic sleep appliances that fit securely over the teeth.  Other methods of treatment may be beneficial as well depending on the results of a professional sleep study. A complete dental evaluation of how the teeth occlude together along with a TMJ examination will aid in a complete and proper diagnosis of most types of sleep disorders.

With today’s diagnostic imaging technology along with a thorough clinical evaluation many people are living life better than ever before simply by solving airway obstruction problems.  Pay close attention to the symptoms mentioned above and if you or your loved ones suffer from any form of sleep disturbance I recommend you seek a consultation and evaluation.  A well trained dentist who focuses on TMJ and airway space disorders is a great starting point! 


Yours for Better Health,

Dr. Christine R. Wenrick




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