It may surprise you to learn that dentists are often the first in line to recognize symptoms of sleep disorders. Just by taking a peek at your pearly whites, along with a few brief health history questions, a dentist can make an educated guess about your sleep habits. Sleep apnea, specifically, can take a toll on your oral health, and vice versa: your oral health can be affected by their interrupted sleeping patterns.
Let’s take a closer look at the connection between the two.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes breathing interruptions while you sleep. This could happen because your tongue is too big, the muscles at the back of your mouth are weak, or your jaw is too small or in the improper position. These issues cause obstructions in your airway and when your body realizes it’s not getting enough oxygen it wakes you out of your peaceful slumber. According to The National Sleep Foundation, approximately 18 million Americans suffer from this sleeping disorder.
- Gasping for air while you’re sleeping
- Dry mouth
Because you’re not getting an uninterrupted night of sleep, sleep apnea causes fatigue during the day. This fatigue can lead to forgetfulness and affect your energy level, no matter how much coffee you drink!
How Can Sleep Apnea Affect Your Teeth?
Believe it or not, good quality sleep affects your teeth and oral health. Frequent interruptions to sleep can cause issues with your teeth and jaw including:
- TMJ – people who are prone to sleep apnea are 3x more likely to have TMJ according to a report from the Journal of Dental Research
- Teeth grinding or clenching (otherwise known as bruxism) – this can cause jaw and neck pain, wear down on tooth enamel, and ultimately lead to chipped or broken teeth
- Mouth breathing – this can lead to dry mouth and tooth decay
How Oral Health Can Contribute to Sleep Apnea
As we mentioned earlier, this relatively common sleep disorder is a two way street. Tensing your jaw or grinding your teeth can signal to your body that it needs to wake up and get more oxygen to the lungs, causing those interrupted sleep cycles.
Sleep Apnea Solutions
If you think you are suffering from this sleep disorder, your dentist will often suggest a sleep study. Once a sleep doctor diagnoses your sleep condition, they may recommend:
- A CPAP machine, which helps you breathe while you sleep
- Dental appliance for sleep apnea
Dakota Dental Solutions
Getting a good night’s sleep is important to your mental, physical, and oral health. At Dakota Dental, we’re well-versed in treating mild to moderate sleep apnea, and can help you find the road back to peaceful sleep. Check out our Sleep Apnea Treatment Page and when you’re ready to come in, go ahead and contact us.