Like most new parents, if you are told your child has a tongue tie, you understandably have lots of questions. What is it? How is it diagnosed? Most importantly, what...
Sleep apnea has become a mainstream term in recent years. More and more people are affected by this condition, which is characterized by sleep being interrupted by short pauses in breathing that can have far-reaching implications on your overall health.
What you may not realize is that sleep apnea doesn’t just disrupt your night’s rest – it could also impact your oral health.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a health condition that occurs during sleep when breathing breifly ceases, sometimes as often as hundreds of times a night.
The most common type of sleep apnea is known as “Obstructive Sleep Apnea,” where the soft tissue that is located at the back of the throat collapses, blocking the airway during sleep. This blockage results in periods of halted breathing, often followed by loud snoring as the body struggles to breathe.
The Interconnection Between Sleep Apnea and Oral Health
Because of the location of the anatomy and mechanisms behind sleep apnea, it is no surprise that this is interconnected with oral health. So, how does a sleeping disorder relate to your dental well-being?
People with sleep apnea frequently sleep with their mouths open, leading to dry mouth. Saliva plays a central role in oral health by neutralizing acids and cleaning away food particles in our mouths. When there’s a lack of saliva, you are at a higher risk of dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, and even bad breath. Not to mention, it can be uncomfortable.
Another common oral health issue linked to sleep apnea is bruxism, or teeth grinding. Some experts believe that this grinding is a subconscious response by the body to reopen a blocked airway. Over time, bruxism can lead to worn-down enamel, increased tooth sensitivity, and even cracked or broken teeth.
The stress and strain of grinding your teeth and tensing your jaw muscles can eventually lead to Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders. These disorders can cause pain in the muscles that control jaw movement and your jaw joint, as well as headaches.
Why Treat Sleep Apnea Now?
If left untreated, sleep apnea not only disrupts your sleep and oral health but it can potentially lead to more severe health issues such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and more.
More immediately, however, poor oral health can significantly impact your quality of life. It can lead to painful dental problems and expensive treatments and even impact your ability to enjoy the simple pleasure of food.
But here’s the good news – sleep apnea can be managed, and its effects on oral health mitigated.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Depending on the severity, different treatment options are available. For milder cases of sleep apnea, lifestyle changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking, or avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills can significantly help.
For moderate to severe cases, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices are often used. These machines work by providing a continuous stream of air to help keep your airways open while you sleep.
In certain cases, oral appliances designed to keep your throat open, such as mandibular advancement devices, may be an option.
In terms of improving oral health, regular dental check-ups can help detect early signs of problems. You may be surprised to learn that your dentist can help diagnose and treat dental issues that result from sleep apnea but can also offer sleep apnea treatments as well.
Take Action Today
Treating sleep apnea doesn’t just improve your sleep quality; it’s a step towards protecting your oral health, reducing your risk of serious health complications, and ultimately, enhancing your overall quality of life.
If you or a loved one experiences symptoms of sleep apnea, don’t wait. Schedule an appointment with our office to discuss your symptoms and concerns today.