Sleep Apnea and Dental Issues

woman awake at 3:41am suffering from sleep apnea

The human body requires sleep to function properly. It revitalizes our entire being, keeps us healthy, and helps us think clearly. A good night’s sleep can also help to boost the immune system, promote digestion and detoxification, keep hormone balances in check, and improve cognitive function.

The brain cannot function correctly when there is insufficient sleep. This can have serious health consequences over time.

That is why sleep apnea has such a negative impact on our health. Sleep apnea is a medical disease that causes difficulty breathing while sleeping, causing insomnia and sleep loss.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea, and complicated sleep apnea are the three kinds of sleep apnea. OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. In the United States, it accounts for more than 80% of sleep-disorder breathing cases.

During sleep, there is a continuous narrowing or collapse of the upper airway, which is known as OSA. It is defined by at least five or more occurrences per night, but each patient’s presentation is different. Breathing pauses can range anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Furthermore, the pauses can happen up to 30 times every hour.

Sleep apnea is getting more prevalent. Sleep apnea affects 22 million adults in the United States. Snoring loudly, waking up gasping for air, daytime tiredness, and feeling worried from a lack of sleep are all symptoms that can range from mild to severe.

Sleep apnea has a direct link to dental health, in addition to mental and physical tiredness. Dry mouth, teeth decay, grinding, gingivitis, and other issues can result from sleep apnea. Good sleep, on the other hand, can lead to improved health, less foul breath, and a lower risk of gum disease.

That is why it is critical for dentists to work with sleep apnea patients.

Sleep Apnea Signs & Symptoms to Recognize

In the United States, sleep apnea is one of the most frequent medical problems. Despite this, 80 percent of moderate to severe instances go misdiagnosed, putting the patient at risk.

Introduce sleep into the picture early in your routine health history intake for an easy approach to look for the warning symptoms of sleep apnea. Inquire about the patients’ sleep habits, such as if they are rested or suffering from insomnia.

Sleep apnea has an impact on several aspects of oral health.

  • It can, for example, lead to tooth grinding. Dentists can check for worn tooth surfaces, potential fracture, and even an increase in cavities due to bacteria growth. According to the Journal of Oral and Facial Pain and Headache, up to 31% of adults grind their teeth, with at least one-fourth of them also having sleep apnea.
  • Additionally, sleep apnea can produce snoring-related redness in the throat, dry mouth from mouth breathing, and frequent headaches. It can also lead to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can sometimes be a symptom of a serious sleep apnea problem, especially if there is a lot of deterioration.
  • TMJ issues can also be caused by sleep apnea, which can result in jaw pain, difficulty eating, grinding or clicking in the joint, or lockjaw.

As the First Line of Defense, Dentists

Dentists are crucial in the diagnosis of sleep apnea. Oral clinical tests have proven to be an effective technique to assess individuals for suspected sleep apnea risk factors.

In fact, compared to annual medical checkups, individuals are 24.1 percent more likely to visit their dentists on a frequent basis. Dentists and dental hygienists, on the other hand, are well-positioned to detect potential health problems, diseases, and threats.

It’s crucial to recognize the warning signs of sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Dentists can look for common features like a large tongue or tonsils, mandibular retrognathia or micrognathia, a large neck circumference, nocturnal choking or gasping, obesity, and loud or irregular.

Dentists can be the first line in a good diagnosis, in addition to dental treatments to rectify and restore problems with the teeth or mouth caused by sleep apnea. If a patient exhibits these symptoms, they should be sent to a primary care physician or a sleep expert for additional assessment.

When it comes to sleep apnea, patient education is also crucial. Patients can learn about potential risk factors, resulting health concerns, and even potential treatment choices from their dentists if an official diagnosis is made. All of this will result in better-informed patients who are better able to manage their own health.

Using Sleep Apnea Instruments

Aside from routine inspections, dentists play an important role in deciding whether or not to use sleep apnea appliances, as well as which instruments to use. Dentists can help patients with sleep apnea treatment when a primary care physician or sleep specialist has confirmed the diagnosis. They can also evaluate the optimum sort of treatment for patients with sleep apnea.

Positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy is typically the most effective treatment for sleep apnea. Dentists might be the first line of defense when it comes to presenting patients to different PAP therapy choices.

Many people with sleep apnea prefer to use a CPAP machine, which adjusts the air pressure to allow the patient to breathe properly at night. Specially designed CPAP pillows can also give optimal ergonomic support and comfort, allowing for proper body alignment without interfering with sleep apnea therapy or equipment.

Dentists are among the medical experts with the power to write a CPAP machine prescription and the capacity to assist patients with sleep apnea treatment. Furthermore, dentists are in a unique position to detect major risk factors during routine dental examinations.

Oral gadgets and oral pressure therapy have also been demonstrated to be beneficial in treating minor sleep apnea instances in studies. Oral pressure therapy keeps the tongue and palate in position and prevents airway obstruction. The tongue and lower jaw are moved by oral devices or equipment, such as a sleep apnea mouth guard, allowing the upper airway to expand.

When it comes to oral appliance therapy, consulting with your dentist is crucial. Mouth guards must be custom-made for each patient’s needs and given by a licensed dentist. Dental professionals can assist their patients in designing and custom-fitting the correct mouth guard for them, allowing for an open, unobstructed airway.

When it comes to dentists and oral appliance therapy, it’s crucial to keep in mind that there are some unique needs. Oral appliance treatment instruction is unusual in dentistry colleges, according to the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. To provide the best possible care to their patients, dentists interested in this qualification should seek special training and continuous education in dental sleep medicine.

Collaboration for the Patient’s Health

While dentists are unable to diagnose sleep apnea, they can aid in the identification, education, diagnosis, and prevention of the condition. A long-term sleep apnea treatment strategy requires collaboration with a multi-functional medical team that includes a sleep lab, sleep doctors, pulmonologists, and primary care physicians.

It’s critical to pay attention to early warning symptoms and to talk to patients about the risks of sleep apnea and possible remedies. Dentists can then assist patients not only avoid dental problems, but also improve their quality of life.

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DCA of Buffalo