The Link Between Dental Health and Sleep Apnea

man sleeping with breathing machine

Waking up tired and being drowsy throughout the day could be signs that you are experiencing sleep apnea. Diagnosing sleep apnea can be difficult, however, since you are usually not awake when symptoms occur. However, in many cases, your dentist is the first to discover it. See how regular dental checkups can help identify this condition and get you on the path to treatment with insights from Rutgers Health University Dental Associates.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when your airway is obstructed as you breathe during sleep. Your airway can be obstructed for several reasons, including a thick neck or tongue, narrow airway in your nose or throat, or enlarged tonsils and adenoids. When your breathing is interrupted by these blockages, your lungs have to work extra hard to pull in air, which can cause loud gasps or snoring that prevent you from achieving a deep and restful sleep. These interruptions can occur more 30 times a minute in severe cases, which means your body never truly rests, and will make it hard to wake up in the morning or feel awake during the day.

Symptoms Relating to Oral Health

Since it is hard to know if you are snoring or gasping loudly at night unless you are sleeping near someone else, symptoms are often revealed in other ways. Often, they can be discovered during a checkup with your dentist. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Teeth Grinding: People suffering from sleep apnea often grind their teeth, so your dentist will check tooth surfaces for wear.
  • Scalloped Tongue: Rippled or scalloped edges often form on the tongues of patients with sleep apnea as the tongue size is often enlarged.
  • Redness in the Throat: When you snore heavily, your throat may become red and irritated because of forceful air intake. Dry mouth and throat are other common symptoms.

Fixing the Issue

When your dentist suspects OSA, they will refer you to your physician for an sleep study. Depending on the severity of the condition, you may be offered an CPAP machine.

A CPAP machine, the most common form of treatment can be a problem for some patients. Many dislike wearing it since they must sleep with an apparatus over their face.   A Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD) which a dentist can custom-make for you, is similar to a retainer and works by  maintaining an open airway so you can breathe regularly. Patients who have healthy teeth and jaw joints can be fitted with a MAD, which is similar to a retainer, but pulls the lower jaw forward so that the airway is cleared.

Schedule a Checkup

Visiting your dentist regularly can help uncover this condition and determine how to resolve it. At Rutgers Health University Dental Associates, our faculty offers a wide range of specialty services that cover both dentistry and oral medicine. If you’d like to schedule an appointment, contact one of our two convenient locations in New Jersey today.