Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that causes one’s breathing to stop at various times throughout their sleep cycles. Suffering from sleep apnea is often extremely disruptive and quite scary to those with it as well as their family or people sleeping near them. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this condition affects about 18 million people in the United States. Sleep apnea leaves its sufferers constantly tired and lethargic. When left untreated, sleep apnea can have a detrimental effect on one’s physical and mental health.
The different types of sleep apnea
There are two different types of sleep apnea, being obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. When one suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, the soft tissue of the airway collapse, causing the person’s breathing passages to be obstructed. When this collapse occurs, oxygen can no longer pass through the airway in order to reach the lungs and spread to the bloodstream and throughout the rest of the body. This type of sleep apnea is the most common of the two. When one suffers from central sleep apnea, their brain stops sending messages to their body telling it to breathe while they are sleeping.
The correlation between sleep apnea and your oral health
People are often quite surprised when their Irving dentist asks them how they are sleeping at night. However, the reason behind this is that one’s oral health and sleep apnea are actually highly correlated.
How are the two connected? When the body physically reacts to the ceasing of oxygen flow often the result is tightening of the jaw as a sort of way to open the airway back up. This reaction of the jaw causes high levels of stress for the surrounding neck and jaw muscles as well as the teeth. The body sometimes reacts to this stress by engaging in grinding of the teeth (bruxism), which over time will severely damage the enamel of the teeth and the teeth themselves. Other oral relations can contribute to sleep apnea as well, such as a displaced position of the tongue.
If your dentist thinks you may be suffering from sleep apnea, he will ask you about the following possible symptoms:
- Pain in the jaw
- Toothaches and pains
- Tooth sensitivity
- Tightness of the jaw
- Teeth grinding
- Locking of the jaw
- Cracked or worn-down teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Pain or tenseness in the neck or shoulders
- A dry mouth or sore throat upon waking up
- Poor quality of sleep
- Tiredness and fatigue
What your dentist can do
If your sleep apnea is orally related, your dentist can help. There are special mouth guards that can be made that work by holding the jaw and the tongue in a particular place in that they do not relax in a manner that obstructs the airway. These mouth guards are called mandibular advancement devices or dental sleep devices and are the most commonly used aid for patients suffering from sleep apnea.
With these oral guards, the jaw is pushed forward and the tongue is pushed down. Although the guard may feel slightly uncomfortable at first, you will soon get used to it and feel much better as you begin to fall back into normal sleeping patterns with the aid of your device.
Your family dentist in Irving will be able to assess your condition and decided whether or not you are a candidate for a mandibular advancement device. If so, they will be able to model a device for your mouth that will help your sleep apnea symptoms.
We can help
Cosmetic and Family Dentistry is a trusted and highly recommended practice located in Las Colinas. If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from sleep apnea, we would love to help. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.