An estimated 5.4 million Canadian adults are affected and have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. This condition can result in sleep depravity, can impact the body and heart, as well as strain the brain with periodic bouts of no oxygen. However, less talked about is the implications of sleep apnea on oral health.
When looking for treatments for sleep apnea, it requires your whole-body health to be considered. This means including your dentist in discussions to help reduce the effects sleep apnea has on your teeth and gums.
How does sleep apnea affect your oral health? What can be done to negate harmful effects to your teeth and gums? And how does a dentist come into all of this?
Let’s go through it all.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea, sometimes referred to as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is a chronic condition that causes you to draw in shallow breaths or to stop breathing while you are asleep temporarily. These pauses can last just a few seconds or few minutes and bring you out of deep sleep in a light sleep. This disorder occurs when your muscles relax during sleep.
These low oxygen levels cause the body to wake up throughout the night to regain airflow and may result in snorting, gasping, or choking to restore oxygen levels. A person with sleep apnea may wake up an overage of 30 times an hour with no memory of it. Chronic low oxygen levels can cause irreversible brain damage, heart attack, and stroke.
Its causes can range from a misaligned or small jaw, tongue with scalloped edges, excess body weight, or a narrow airway.
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect your Oral Health?
Sleep apnea is mainly attributed to having a poor airway, which causes your body to rely on mouth breathing. The saliva in your mouth, along with the acidity levels and bacterial activity are all affected by the breathing through your mouth.
When you breathe through your mouth as you sleep, your saliva will evaporate. The resulting dry mouth can be very uncomfortable when you awake, and the lack of saliva affects the acidity level in your mouth. Saliva provides the base pH levels your mouth needs as a protectant for your tooth enamel and as a tool to against bacteria. Without the proper amount of saliva, the environment in your mouth will have higher levels of acidity, which can be dangerous for your teeth.
The acidity of a dry mouth will begin to eat away at the protective layer of enamel on your teeth, making them susceptible to erosion and bacteria.
Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is also often found in people that have sleep apnea. Many sufferers unconsciously grind their teeth in an effort to open their airways. Constant friction wears the enamel of the teeth and leads to tiny cracks, chips, and fractures that weaken your teeth and make them susceptible to decay.
Additionally, the motion of grinding places strain on the muscles and bones of your jaw. Over time you may experience chronic pain and jaw misalignment.
Dental Appliances for Sleep Apnea
Oral appliance therapy is a dental solution for mild to moderate cases of sleep-related breathing disorders like sleep apnea. As mentioned above, sleep apnea is caused by muscles and soft fatty tissues relaxing during your sleep to the point where they collapse onto the upper airway and block the flow of oxygen through the body. Oral appliance therapy uses devices that are like a mouthguard or retainer that are custom-made to the patient’s mouth to help realign the jaw, teeth, and tongue to prevent airway obstruction.
This treatment can often be more convenient and comfortable for patients when compared to that of a CPAP machine.
Want to Restore Your Sleep?
The quality of your sleep has a dramatic impact on your health, wellbeing, and quality of life. If you think you have sleep apnea or would like to learn more about how your dentist can help you achieve a better night’s rest, call Dawson Dental Hanover today.