Sleep Apnea and Your Dental Health: How Sleep Appliances Can Help
Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly condition that occurs when you start and stop breathing during sleep. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that they have sleep apnea. And many people don’t know that their chances of developing sleep apnea increase with age. But understanding what sleep apnea is, knowing if you have it, and how you can use sleep appliances to treat it can make a world of difference. It can even be life-saving.
What is sleep apnea?
As mentioned, sleep apnea occurs when you are sleeping; it’s when your body starts and stops breathing intermittently. Sleep apnea is classified in three different ways.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This occurs when your throat muscles relax and block the flow of air into your lungs.
- Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): This condition occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that are responsible for your breathing.
- Complex Sleep Apnea: This type of sleep apnea occurs when someone has OSA that converts to CSA when receiving therapy for OSA.
Though sleep apnea most commonly affects those who are overweight or obese, the chances of developing this troubling condition increase with age. According to an article by WebMD, 4% to 9% of middle-aged adults are believed to have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). And it’s estimated that at least 10% of adults over age 65 also suffer from sleep apnea. This is because, as we age, it becomes more difficult for our brains to keep our upper airway throat muscles stiff when resting (sleeping). So, there is a higher likelihood that the airway will narrow or collapse.
How does sleep apnea affect our oral health?
There are several signs of sleep apnea. However, perhaps the biggest one is if you wake up intermittently throughout the night, snore frequently, or just get up in the morning feeling exhausted and not rested. If this sounds familiar, you might have sleep apnea. Not only is this important because excessive sleepiness is a common cause of vehicular accidents, but sleep apnea can also wreak havoc on your oral health. Specifically, if you have sleep apnea, you are more likely to have one of the following conditions.
- Teeth Grinding (Bruxism): To compensate for the relaxation of your tongue or soft palate, you may inadvertently grip your jaw and grind your teeth. This can cause the enamel of your teeth to wear down, increasing your risks for tooth decay and cavities.
- TMJ: Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is what connects your jaw on both sides of your skull. When you clench your teeth, this can cause undue pressure on the jaw, resulting in TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder). So, sleep apnea can contribute to not only bruxism but jaw pain too.
- Dry Mouth: Many people with sleep apnea sleep with their mouths open, which can lead to dry mouth. When your mouth is dry, you don’t produce as much saliva as you should. And saliva is a critical component in helping to keep your mouth clean and free from food particles and other debris.
Thankfully, you don’t need to suffer if you have sleep apnea.
Sleep appliances can help those suffering from sleep apnea.
Though sleep apnea needs to be diagnosed by a doctor, your dentist can help with treatment options. Sleep dentistry can be highly effective in helping you (and your sleep partner) sleep better. One of the ways we can help do this is by prescribing you a sleep appliance.
These oral appliances can either work independently from, or in conjunction with, other medical devices for sleep apnea, such as a CPAP machine (sometimes called a sleep apnea mask). These oral appliances are designed to gently move your jaw forward, keeping your airway open by stopping the soft tissue in your throat from falling back. This device also helps keep your jaw in position, reducing your risk of developing TMD.
Sleep appliances look similar to sports mouthguards and are customized to fit your teeth, the size of your mouth, and the shape of your jaw. Dr. Rozensky at Laurel Manor Dental and Sleep Center will ensure your device is comfortable and effective in holding a proper resting jaw position. If you have sleep apnea, a sleep appliance can help you in the following ways.
- Sleep better and wake up better rested
- Decrease your risk of developing other oral health problems
- Improve your overall health
Laurel Manor can help you sleep better with a sleep appliance designed just for you.
If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, now is the time to get a better night’s sleep. Request an appointment with Laurel Manor today so that our sleep dentistry experts can help determine the best approach to making you feel better. Whether it is a sleep apnea mouth guard or a CPAP machine or both, we’ll help find the best sleep apnea treatment for you.