Sleep apnea is a common but serious sleep disorder that affects a large percentage of people worldwide. It occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open during sleep, causing breathing to stop and start repeatedly throughout the night. While sleep apnea is often associated with snoring, it can also have significant impacts on oral health.
Here, we will discuss the link between sleep apnea and oral health and why it is essential to understand this connection.
The impact of sleep apnea on oral health:
Dry mouth: People with sleep apnea often breathe through their mouth, which can lead to dry mouth. A dry mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria, which can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.
Teeth grinding: Sleep apnea is also associated with teeth grinding or bruxism. Grinding teeth can wear down the enamel, cause tooth sensitivity, and even lead to tooth loss.
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ): The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jawbone to the skull. People with sleep apnea are more likely to experience TMJ disorder, which can cause jaw pain, headaches, and difficulty chewing.
Gum disease: Sleep apnea can also increase the risk of gum disease, a condition in which bacteria attack the gum tissue, causing inflammation and tooth loss.
Why it's important to treat sleep apnea:
Aside from its impact on oral health, sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that can lead to other health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Therefore, it’s essential to diagnose and treat sleep apnea as early as possible.
Treatment options for sleep apnea:
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. This involves wearing a mask over the nose and mouth during sleep, which delivers a continuous flow of air to keep the airway open.
Other treatment options include oral appliances, which are custom-made devices that are worn in the mouth to reposition the jaw and tongue to keep the airway open, and surgery, which may be recommended for severe cases.
How dentists can help:
Dentists play an essential role in diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. They can identify the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea during routine dental exams and refer patients to sleep specialists for further evaluation.
Dentists can also fabricate oral appliances for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea or who are unable to tolerate CPAP therapy. Oral appliances are more comfortable and less cumbersome than CPAP masks, making them a more appealing treatment option for some patients.
Additionally, dentists can help manage the oral health issues associated with sleep apnea, such as dry mouth, teeth grinding, and TMJ disorder. They can provide patients with tips and advice on how to maintain good oral hygiene and prevent oral health problems from developing.
In conclusion, sleep apnea can have significant impacts on oral health, causing a range of dental problems, from dry mouth to gum disease. Therefore, it’s essential to diagnose and treat sleep apnea as early as possible to prevent these complications from developing. if you suspect you may have sleep apnea, you can book an appointment with us at our clinics in Parramatta, Eastwood, Lindfield, Bella Vista, and Narellan.