The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Dental Health
Sleep apnea is a condition that disrupts a person’s sleeping pattern and prevents them from achieving R.E.M., which is the deepest level of sleep. Sleep apnea is likely to result in daytime sleepiness, irritability, and lack of focus. Sleep apnea increases the risk of general health problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease.
Many people do not realize there is also a strong link between sleep apnea and dental health. Certain dental conditions contribute to sleep apnea, just as sleep apnea contributes to particular oral health problems. The dentists at Gooch Family Dental in Birmingham, AL, help patients understand how sleep apnea and dental health are related and the treatments available to prevent sleep apnea.
Can Dental Health Issues Lead to Sleep Apnea?
There are two primary types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is neurological and occurs when the brain fails to communicate with the muscles that control breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form of sleep apnea, is caused by blockage of the upper airway. Certain dental conditions can contribute to obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when soft tissues in the throat block the airway and prevent adequate oxygen from reaching the brain. Misalignment of the teeth or jaw can lead to blockages. These issues may present as malocclusion problems (crooked teeth), TMJ disorder (inhibited jaw movement), or bruxism (grinding and clenching of the teeth).
Can Sleep Apnea Cause Dental Health Problems?
Some oral health problems are more likely in individuals who suffer from sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea often breathe through the mouth, so it is open while they sleep. An open mouth is exposed to a lot of air, which can dry out the tongue, gums, and other soft tissues. Saliva is the mouth’s natural cleaning system, so a dry mouth is not good for dental health. Dry mouth increases the risk of dental health problems such as:
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Mouth sores
Dental Treatment for Sleep Apnea
If our dentists suspect that our Birmingham patients suffer from sleep apnea, they will refer them to a sleep study. Once a sleep apnea diagnosis is confirmed, there are dental treatments that can alleviate sleep apnea.
When sleep apnea is related to malocclusion problems, TMJ disorder, or bruxism, those issues must be addressed. Treatment for these conditions is personalized and may include orthodontic care or restorative dental work. Another common dental treatment that is also effective for sleep apnea is a mouth guard. A custom mouth guard fits over the teeth and is worn while a person sleeps to hold the jaw in proper alignment. A mouth guard prevents the throat’s soft tissues from obstructing the airways.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from sleep apnea, the dentists at Gooch Family Dental can assist you with getting a proper diagnosis so we can discuss treatment options. To schedule an appointment at our Birmingham practice, send us a message online or call (205) 991-9892 at your earliest convenience.