Having a perfect smile is a desire of many, and it’s no surprise that people go to great lengths to improve their dental health. However, many people are unaware of the link between sleep apnea and oral health. Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of individuals worldwide, and it’s essential to understand how it can impact your dental health.
Understanding Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes a person’s breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. The pauses can last from a few seconds to a few minutes and occur up to 30 times or more in an hour.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that requires attention, and these symptoms can signal its presence.
Loud snoring is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea. Often, it’s so loud that it disturbs the bed partner and disrupts the sleep.
Daytime fatigue is another symptom that may indicate sleep apnea. People who have sleep apnea often wake up feeling tired despite getting enough sleep.
Morning headaches are another sign of sleep apnea. These are often caused by a decrease in oxygen levels during sleep.
Waking up frequently at night
People with sleep apnea often wake up suddenly, gasping for air. This can happen many times during the night, leading to poor sleep quality.
Oral Health and Sleep Apnea
There is a significant link between sleep apnea and oral health. Breathing pauses during sleep can cause the mouth to become dry, leading to a proliferation of oral bacteria. This bacteria can cause several oral health conditions, such as:
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Bad breath (halitosis)
Moreover, because people with sleep apnea often sleep with their mouth open, there is a higher chance of gum disease and tooth decay due to the lack of saliva flow. Saliva provides natural protection against bacteria, so without adequate saliva flow, bacteria can accumulate more readily.
Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea Treatment
There are several oral appliances that can be used to manage sleep apnea. These devices help keep the airway open and provide relief from symptoms. Some of the most widely used devices include:
Tongue Retaining Devices
Tongue retaining devices are worn like a mouthguard and prevent the tongue from falling back and obstructing the airway.
Mandibular Advancement Devices
Mandibular advancement devices are designed to open the airway by shifting the lower jaw forward during sleep.
Palatal Lifting Devices
Palatal lifting devices hold the soft palate in an elevated position, preventing it from collapsing into the airway.
Combination therapy involves the use of oral appliances along with other treatment methods, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).
The Importance of Regular Dental Check-Ups for Sleep Apnea
Dentists can help identify and manage sleep apnea because of their unique position in examining the oral cavity. A dentist can spot signs of sleep apnea like worn teeth, dry mouth, and periodontal disease. Regular dental check-ups can help manage sleep apnea and also prevent complications such as tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and other oral health conditions.
Now that you understand the link between sleep apnea and oral health, it’s essential to take the right steps to manage it. If you’re experiencing any symptoms of sleep apnea, schedule a dental appointment immediately to assess the situation and begin treatment.