If you’re experiencing issues sleeping, or find yourself snoring more than normal, it might be time to call your dentist. While the two may not seem connected at first glance, the initial signs of sleep apnea are often found in your mouth, giving dentists the ability to quickly diagnose and recommend treatment.
What is Sleep Apnea?
With over 18 million Americans affected by sleep apnea, the issue is more common than most think. As one sleeps, their muscles in the back of the throat over-relax and will block airway passages. Because the body understands the need for oxygen, the natural reaction is to gasp for air, thus raising your heart rate, and often causing consistent pauses in breathing.
Grinding Teeth is the First Sign
Do you find yourself waking up with a sore jaw, or a dull pain in your teeth? If so, you could be experiencing tooth grinding, or bruxism. When dentists take a look at teeth and notice that the surfaces are worn, it’s a sign that a patient is experiencing tooth grinding throughout the night. In addition, dentists will also look for inflamed gums or abnormal cavity amounts due to the damage caused by grinding.
If your dentist notices any of the above, they will often check for a few additional signs of sleep apnea prior to making a diagnosis.
A Dry Mouth Can Lead to Infection
One of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea is dry mouth, due to the act of snoring. While it may seem like a very minor thing, this can ultimately lead to a lack of saliva, which helps spread disease fighting organisms through your mouth. A constant dry mouth can mean bacterial infection, bad breath, and tooth decay.
A Painful Jaw Can Mean TMJ
While a painful jaw in the morning can certainly be associated with grinding your teeth, it can also mean TMJ caused by sleep apnea. When your throat starts to relax, your body naturally begins to clamp down its jaw. This causes a massive force on your jaw, mouth, neck, and shoulders. Over time, this will cause TMJ, or a disorder of the temporomandibular joint.
What Can My Dentist Do To Help Sleep Apnea?
While the specific treatment options are dependent on the dentist, most will recommend a series of changes that will help determine the severity of your sleep apnea. The most common forms of treatment are Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and supplemental oxygen.
If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, or would like to learn more about the symptoms, please contact DENTIST today to set up an appointment.