Sleep apnea affects more than 18 million adults and up to 20% of habitually snoring children in the United States alone. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by brief, repeated interruptions to normal breathing during sleep. It can have many short and long-term effects on a person’s health (to the point of being potentially life-threatening) and is also very harmful to oral health.
Sleep apnea affects the quality of your sleep, so you don’t get as much restorative deep sleep as you need. This can lead to daytime drowsiness, irritability, trouble concentrating, headaches and other problems.
Sleep Apnea Comes in Different Types
Have you ever woken up gasping for breath in the middle of the night?
It's not a pleasant feeling, is it? Especially when you're just trying to get some sleep.
But that's what happens to people with sleep apnea. It's a condition where the airway becomes blocked while they're sleeping, causing them to wake up and start breathing again. This can happen hundreds of times a night, making it impossible to get a restful night's sleep. The cumulative effect on sleep quality can be severe.
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It is caused by a blocked airway, usually the tongue relaxing back until it collapses against the soft palate, which in turn collapses against the back of the throat, sealing off the airway. Less commonly, a person could have central sleep apnea, in which the brain fails to send signals to the respiratory muscles to keep breathing during sleep. Some people have a combination of both types, which is called complex sleep apnea.
Whether the airway is physically blocked or the brain isn’t sending signals to breathe, the lack of oxygen causes the brain to react in alarm and force the person to wake up long enough to take a breath. They usually don’t remember waking up because it only lasts a few seconds, but it can happen as many as hundreds of times in a single night, making it impossible to get a restful night’s sleep. The cumulative effect on sleep quality can be severe.
Sleep Apnea and Oral Health
It's no secret that sleep apnea is bad for you. It can cause morning headaches, exhaustion, and difficulty concentrating—which are all terrible for kids trying to do well in school. But did you know that sleep apnea also means oral health difficulties?
Sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of moderate to severe gum disease and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). This is because the jaw reflexively clenches in an effort to keep the airway open during a sleep apnea episode. This kind of TMD issue can compound, leading to problems like pain when chewing, neck and shoulder pain, damaged teeth, and chronic headaches.
The Dentist Can Help
You know what's better than a good night's sleep?
A healthy smile!
And you can get both with regular visits to the dentist.
Dental sleep apnea is so common that it's often the first health care professional to notice signs of the condition and diagnose it. That's why keeping up with your regular dental appointments is so important—not just for your oral health, but also for your overall health!
Sleep apnea is treated using nighttime dental devices that adjust the position of the jaw and tongue, as well as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.
So if you or your child have been struggling with the effects of sleep apnea, don't wait another night to see if you might be showing signs of sleep apnea—schedule an appointment today so we can help!
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.