Sleep Apnea and Your Dental Health

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Sleep Apnea and Your Dental Health

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. Its most prevalent form is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) which happens when the throat muscles relax and obstruct the airway. In this post we’ll explore how sleep apnea relates to your overall dental health.

Oral Conditions that May Play a Role in Sleep Apnea

Teeth Grinding

Your dentist can play a role in identifying potential signs of sleep apnea through certain oral conditions. One common indicator is bruxism, or teeth grinding, in which the body makes efforts to reopen the airway by moving the jaw. Additionally, individuals with sleep apnea may exhibit a high incidence of tooth decay and gum disease. This is partially attributed to breathing through the mouth during sleep which leads to a dry mouth—a condition conducive to bacteria growth.

Tooth Loss

The lack of teeth can potentially indirectly contribute to the development of sleep apnea. When teeth are missing, particularly a significant number of them, it can lead to changes in the jaw’s alignment and stability. This may result in jaw retrusion where the jaw recedes backward, or soft tissue collapse in the mouth and throat, thus reducing the airway size or causing it to collapse more easily. Missing teeth could also cause changes in the oral musculature and tongue position.

Anatomical Features

The mouth’s structure and jaw can contribute as well. Anatomical features such as a small or receding jaw, enlarged tonsils, or a large tongue can increase the likelihood of airway obstruction during sleep. Your dentist can identify these structural issues during your routine examinations and advise you on how to collaborate with a sleep specialist to devise an appropriate treatment plan.

Related: Oral health problems linked to Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Good Hygiene Helps

Maintaining good oral hygiene practices such as regular brushing, flossing, and dental checkups can help prevent oral complications associated with sleep apnea. Your dentist may also advise you to avoid alcohol and tobacco as these substances could exacerbate sleep apnea symptoms.

Dental Solutions to Sleep Apnea

During your routine dental exams, your dentist observes your oral and craniofacial features. For teeth grinding, they can notice worn tooth surfaces, jaw pain, and muscle tension which may indicate an underlying sleep disorder. Or they might observe signs of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction such as jaw clicking or discomfort.

Dentists may also inquire about symptoms commonly associated with sleep apnea such as excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, and observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep.

One practical method to alleviate your sleep apnea symptoms is through the use of oral appliances also known as mandibular advancement devices (MADs) or dental sleep devices. These custom-made devices are designed to reposition the jaw during sleep to prevent airway blockage and improve breathing. They are often recommended for individuals with mild to moderate sleep apnea, or those who cannot tolerate continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy.

Working with a Sleep Specialist

While your dentist may not be able to diagnose sleep apnea, they can recognize its potential signs and associated risk factors and may recommend you to a sleep specialist who can conduct sleep studies to monitor breathing patterns, oxygen levels, and other physiological parameters during sleep. Based on these test results, they can recommend appropriate treatment options such as CPAP therapy, oral appliances, or surgical interventions.

Contact Advanced Family Dentistry: Your Hometown Dentist in Reston, VA

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, talk to Dr. Sonny Kim and his staff about your concerns. Because they take a holistic approach to dental care and oral health, they want to identify and help remediate any issues that may affect your teeth and your overall well-being.

Whether you’re looking for a great dentist for a lifetime of dental care, or it’s simply time to schedule your oral examination, contact Advanced Family Dentistry at 703-390-9191 to arrange your dental appointment.

Dr Sonny Kim is a Diplomat of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI), the highest education level for general dentists in this field.

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