You’ve probably heard how obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of health problems such as hypertension, stroke, heart disease, obesity, and more. However, you may not be aware that untreated sleep apnea can also lead to oral health issues.
While sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated by a sleep specialist, your dentist can also be looped in to provide treatment for sleep apnea as well. With background knowledge in sleep disorders, a dentist can uncover problems with your mouth or jaw that may be causing or worsening your sleep apnea.
To better understand the link between sleep apnea and oral health problems, Taylor Dental has put together a quick guide breaking everything down.
How Sleep Apnea Impacts Your Oral Health
If you suffer from sleep apnea, you know just how bad it can wreak havoc on your life. Even when you get a full night’s sleep, you wake up feeling unrested and lethargic because of the countless breathing disruptions you experienced throughout the night. Unfortunately, sleep apnea not only affects your quality of sleep but can cause harmful damage to your oral health. Here are a few oral health problems sleep apnea patients should be aware of.
As you know, sleep apnea is caused by a blockage in the individual’s airway that leaves them gasping and choking for air in an attempt to reopen their airway. This reaction is natural but also causes the patient to open their mouth while they gasp for air.
Both gasping and snoring require the individual’s mouth to be open to bring in the oxygen they crave, leaving the patient with a bad case of dry mouth. While dry mouth might not seem like a big deal, it can reduce saliva production, promoting bacterial growth in the mouth. As a result, the sleep apnea patient’s dry mouth can lead to tooth decay, bad breath, and gum disease.
While the connection between sleep apnea and teeth grinding is still being debated, it’s believed individuals suffering from sleep apnea are likely to grind their teeth at night attempting to open their airway. Over time, the teeth grinding can cause severe and permanent damage to their teeth.
While some patients may choke, snore, or gasp for air, others grind their teeth or reposition their jaw in an attempt to remove the blockage in their airway. This moves the jaw out of its proper alignment, leading to additional pressure on the joint — leading to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Similar to teeth grinding, the individual often unknowingly seeks out ways to reopen their airway while sleeping.
Types of Dental Devices for Sleep Apnea
Depending on your specific sleep apnea test results, your dentist may recommend a few different treatment options for your sleep apnea. While continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the most common form of treatment, less severe cases may be able to use one of the following dental devices to lessen the chance of oral health problems:
- Mandibular Advancement Devices – A mandibular advancement device is custom-fit to the individual’s mouth by a dentist. This device is created using a hard plastic that snaps over the top of their upper and lower teeth to push the individual’s jaw forward in an attempt to help keep their airway open throughout the night.
- Mouth Guards – If the patient needs their jaw adjusted slightly to prevent the soft tissues from collapsing into their throat, they may require a mouth guard to slightly reposition their lower jaw.
- Tongue-Retaining Devices – When the individual’s breathing disruptions are caused by their tongue falling back into their throat as they sleep, the dentist may recommend a tongue-retaining device to hold the tongue forward throughout the night and prevent it from slipping back.
Before determining which form of sleep apnea treatment is best, you need to undergo a sleep study to determine how severe your obstructive sleep apnea is.
Call Taylor Dental for Dental Concerns
For all dental concerns, Dr. Taylor offers preventative care, as well as sleep apnea treatment options. Schedule an appointment with the leading dentist in Billings, MT.