How Do Dentists Deal with Sleep Apnea?

How Do Dentists Deal with Sleep Apnea?

Mar 01, 2022

Are you struggling with sleeplessness and snoring? Chances are, your oral health may be to blame. While most people may be familiar with these symptoms, they might not know it could be caused by sleep apnea. According to The National Sleep Foundation, approximately 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. It causes repeated breathing interruptions while sleeping.

Depending on the severity of the condition, the breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and can happen 30 or more times within an hour. Commonly, sleep apnea occurs when there’s a blockage in the airway. Airway obstructions can happen because the tongue is too large, the muscles in the back of the throat are lax, or the jaw is too small.

There are three types of sleep apnea:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA is the most common form of sleep apnea. It happens when your throat muscles relax too much, leading to poor or blocked airflow.
  2. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain doesn’t send proper messages or signals to the muscles that control breathing. It is a rare form of sleep apnea.
  3. Complex sleep apnea or treatment-emergent central sleep apnea happens when someone has central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.

Signs to watch out for

The most common signs of sleep apnea are teeth grinding and loud snoring. Teeth grinding and clenching causes dental damage and can also lead to receding and inflamed gums. Since grinding causes teeth to wear out, chip, crack, or break, they can be vulnerable to decay-causing bacteria. Other signs include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Tongue with scalloped edges
  • Redness in the throat
  • Morning headaches
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by choking and gasping
  • Difficulty concentrating during the day
  • A sore throat or dry mouth
  • Mood changes such as irritability and depression

Please note that some signs, such as loud snoring, don’t always mean you have sleep apnea. However, it’s essential to rule it out by with your dentist. Untreated sleep apnea leads to a higher risk of heart diseases, decreased libido, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and obesity. Contact a dentist like Weymouth Dental Associates immediately if you think you have sleep apnea.

How Can Dentists Help with Sleep Apnea?

According to ADA, a dentist plays a crucial role in diagnosing sleep apnea. When you visit the dentist, they will review your entire medical history. They might ask you about existing and past health conditions and medications. The dentist might also ask about lifestyle habits such as alcohol consumption, exercise, diet, and smoking. Understanding your medical history helps the dentist treat you effectively or refer you to a specialist.

The treatment your dentist will recommend will depend on your specific condition. For less severe cases of sleep apnea, the dentist might recommend simple and less invasive solutions. Severe cases might require more complex treatments such as breathing machines or surgery.

Oral Devices for Sleep Apnea

After diagnosis, the dentist can recommend an oral device to treat or manage sleep apnea symptoms. These devices reposition your tongue or jaw to open up your airway. Common oral appliances for sleep apnea include:

  • Mandibular Advancement Devices

These devices snap over your upper and lower teeth, clearing the airway. They also have metal crews and hinges that push your lower jaw forward. Mandibular advancement devices customize according to your mouth structure. Be sure to ask whether your dentist has the expertise and certification for treating sleep-related disorders.

  • Mouthguards

Mouthguards lessen the effects of teeth grinding and clenching. However, they can also help reposition your lower jaw to prevent airway blockage. You can get a customized mouthguard from your dentist or opt for a ready-made over-the-counter guard.

Unfortunately, store-bought mouthguards can be uncomfortable, ill-fitting, and even cause breathing difficulties, worsening conditions. A custom-made nightguard fits perfectly to ensure maximum protection and comfort. Therefore, they are more effective in preventing headaches, dental damage, and jaw pains caused by teeth grinding.

  • Tongue-retaining device

These devices reposition your tongue and clear the airway. Tongue-retaining devices consist of soft plastic splints placed around the tongue to hold it forward and out of your mouth when sleeping. Unfortunately, these devices cause dry mouth and can be very uncomfortable.

Schedule Your Appointment Today

Are you looking for sleep apnea treatments near you? Contact Weymouth Dental Associates today.

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