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How Dental Care Helps Sleep Apnea

Aug 5 • 3 minute read

If you are one of the many adults diagnosed with sleep apnea, your dentist can help you enjoy better sleep through personalized dental treatment. Using innovative treatment such as specialized dental appliances, you can finally get the quality rest you need.

Do I Have Sleep Apnea?

One of the most challenging things about diagnosing sleep apnea is that the person who has it can’t be awake to witness it. Instead, there are various clues to determine whether you are at risk. If sleep apnea is likely, you will visit a doctor for a sleep test to confirm whether it is an issue.

Sleep apnea is more common in men who are over 40 or overweight. However, women and younger people can also develop sleep apnea, especially if they have a family history of breathing difficulty, sinus issues, allergies, or a deviated septum.

Your dental professional can often detect signs of sleep apnea. Many people with this condition also experience nighttime teeth grinding (bruxism), a side effect of the body trying to reopen the airway. This leads to multiple dental symptoms, including:

  • Aching jaw muscles and joints
  • Painful chewing
  • Cracked or broken teeth
  • Worn teeth
  • Chronic headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain

Additional Sleep Apnea Warning Signs

Many individuals are often unaware of stopped breathing or their frequent wakening, and the most commonly identified symptom of sleep apnea is snoring. The same muscle relaxation that causes sleep apnea is also responsible for snoring, as the relaxed tissue vibrates with the passage of air.

Snoring alone isn’t enough for a diagnosis, however. There are other symptoms you can be on alert for that may tell you if sleep apnea is likely. These include:

  • Interruption of breathing
  • Frequent waking during the night
  • Poor sleep
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Teeth grinding during sleep (also called bruxism)
  • Teeth that are worn down or yellowed (a result of bruxism)

Benefits of Sleep Apnea Treatment

If you have been living with sleep apnea for any length of time, you may have experienced side-effects without realizing it. Your short- and long-term health depends on a good night’s rest, which is why treating sleep apnea offers such great benefits. Some of these benefits include:

Better Health: Sleep allows your mind and body to rest and renew at night. When sleep apnea interrupts that rest, it is very hard on your circulatory and immune system. Effective treatment ensures you can reach deep sleep, improving your overall physical health.

Better Focus: Complete rest leads to better alertness, concentration, and focus throughout the day. Many people find they’re more efficient and less distracted when completing tasks after they’ve had a good night’s rest.

Emotional Stability: Sleep is also essential for your psychological and emotional welfare. If you wake up feeling rested, you will be in a better mood and more likely to maintain a positive outlook. Treating sleep apnea may even play a role in reducing the risk of depression.

Dental Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

The treatment used most often for sleep apnea is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. These machines deliver gently pressurized air to keep the airway open at night and reduce waking. However, in cases where a CPAP may not be a good fit for you, a personalized dental appliance provides a practical and beneficial alternative. There are two popular types of oral appliances that can help significantly with sleep apnea:

Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD): This device is similar in appearance to a mouthguard. Placed over the upper and lower jaw, it uses metal hinges to ease the lower jaw forward and hold it in place, preventing it from sliding back and blocking the airway.

Tongue Retaining Device: Rather than moving the jaw, this device includes a splint that holds the tongue in place via suction. The retaining device keeps the tongue from sliding back and allowing the soft tissue to block the airway, thus protecting your breathing and peaceful sleep.

Most recent research estimates that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with nearly 80% going undiagnosed. This sleep disorder can cause significant long-term health effects, yet many aren’t even aware that it exists, let alone that it’s affecting them. If you are a chronic snorer, determining whether you’re at risk of sleep apnea could mean a significant difference for your health.

Your dentist can discuss each device’s benefits and work with you to find the best solution for your unique situation. If you have undergone treatment for sleep apnea successfully, tell us about your experience here!

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