Sleep Apnea And Dental Health

It may seem odd to speak about dental health in relation to a sleep disorder, but obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a medical condition that effects your entire body, including your teeth and gums. Furthermore, dentists are frequently involved in Dental_Healthboth the diagnosis and treatment of OSA. Sleep apnea occurs when tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway during sleep. This reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the heart, lungs, brain and other vital organs.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Unintentionally falling asleep during the day
  • General daytime sleepiness
  • Unrefreshed sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Waking from sleep with a choking sound or gasping for breath
  • Loud snoring
  • Dry mouth

Dry mouth can have a negative impact on the teeth and gums, and research indicates that it is a significant clinical indicator of OSA. Dentists are often the first health professionals to be aware of a patient’s OSA-related symptoms, simply because they typically see a patient for an exam at least twice per year. A patient who describes symptoms that could be sleep apnea is sent to a sleep medicine specialist for an official diagnosis.

Dental health professionals enter the picture again once a patient is diagnosed with OSA, as they are involved with creating oral appliances to assist in the treatment of the condition, especially in those who have a mild to moderate case of OSA, or who are unable to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) appliance to improve nighttime breathing.

Oral appliances tend to treat OSA in one of two ways – either by holding the tongue in a forward position or by repositioning and maintaining the lower jaw in a protruded position during sleep. A dentist may also make a referral to an oral surgeon if it is determined that corrective surgery on the throat might improve a patient’s ability to breathe during sleep.

“OSA can be a serious, life-threatening disease,” says Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist practicing in central Phoenix. “Some of the symptoms, including dry mouth, can definitely damage your dental health, not to mention your overall well-being. Please ask to be evaluated for sleep apnea if you have symptoms.”




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