Sleep apnea is a condition that often goes undiagnosed that can have negative effects on both your oral and overall health. In this post, our Delta dentists explain what sleep apnea is and why treatment is essential to promoting your overall well-being.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common sleep-related breathing disorder that can cause a person to repeatedly stop breathing for short periods of time over the course of the night while they're asleep. In severe cases, a patient may stop breathing up to 30 times an hour.
The most common form of sleep apnea is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA happens when a physical blockage of airflow is causing sleep apnea. One of the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring. Other signs of sleep apnea include feeling excessively tired during the day, abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking, a dry mouth or sore throat in the mornings, and morning headaches.
As you can imagine, sleep apnea can greatly impact your quality of sleep. Besides feeling fatigued after a full night's sleep, sleep apnea can have negative effects on both your oral and overall health. This is why it's important that sleep apnea be diagnosed and treated.
How can sleep apnea affect your oral health?
Sleep apnea is associated with several oral health symptoms. Sleep apnea causes a person to breathe through their mouth, resulting in a dry mouth. This can cause bad breath and increased plaque build-up and put patients at a higher risk for gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease.
Sleep apnea can also cause:
- Teeth grinding (which may cause wear and breakage)
- Worn tooth surfaces
- Increased cavities
- Mouth sores
- Tongue with scalloped edges
How can sleep apnea affect your overall health?
Sleep apnea causes hypoxia (a low oxygen level in the body). When this happens, your body instinctively becomes stressed and can react by increasing your heart rate and narrowing your arteries. This can lead to a number of cardiac complications including high blood pressure, a higher heart rate, and increased inflammation and heart stress.
Sleep apnea may lead to or worsen several serious conditions, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
As you can see, sleep apnea is a serious condition that should be diagnosed and treated to prevent further complications. If you notice any of the symptoms of sleep apnea you should contact your doctor as soon as possible to begin the diagnosis process.
What can your dentist do about sleep apnea?
While dentists cannot diagnose sleep apnea, they are often the first healthcare professionals to notice the condition due to its effects on your oral health.
If your dentist notices signs of sleep apnea during a routine examination they will recommend that you visit your doctor to have the issue looked into and treated if required.
Some dental offices also provide dental appliances that can be used to help keep your airway open while you sleep and alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea.