Sleep Apnea and Oral Health – Dental Solutions for Better Sleep

Sleep apnea and oral health are intricately linked. Sleep apnea, a condition where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep, can negatively impact your mouth, while certain oral issues can worsen sleep apnea. Fortunately, dentists play a crucial role in both diagnosing and treating sleep apnea, offering dental solutions that can lead to better sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea OSA, the most common form, occurs when the upper airway narrows or closes completely during sleep. This can be caused by enlarged tonsils, a thick tongue base, or a recessed jaw. The body struggles to breathe, leading to frequent awakenings, daytime fatigue, and a cascade of health problems. One way sleep apnea affects oral health is through dry mouth. Reduced saliva production during sleep apnea creates a dry environment in the mouth, increasing the risk of cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Mouth breathing, a common symptom of sleep apnea, further dries the mouth and can contribute to tooth decay.

Dental Care

Teeth grinding bruxism is another potential consequence of sleep apnea. The body tenses and clenches the jaw in response to breathing difficulties during sleep, leading to teeth grinding and jaw pain. This can damage teeth, fillings, and crowns, requiring dental intervention. The good news is that dentists can be valuable partners in managing sleep apnea. During a routine dental exam, dentists may identify signs of sleep apnea, such as enlarged tonsils, a narrow palate, or teeth grinding. They can then recommend a consultation with a sleep specialist for further evaluation. If diagnosed with mild to moderate sleep apnea, a dentist may recommend oral appliance therapy. These custom-made mouthpieces gently reposition the jaw and tongue, keeping the airway open during sleep. Oral appliances are a comfortable and effective alternative to CPAP continuous positive airway pressure therapy, the traditional treatment for sleep apnea, which involves wearing a mask connected to a machine that delivers pressurized air.

However, oral appliances are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Dentists work closely with sleep physicians to determine the most suitable treatment plan for each individual. In some cases, a combination of CPAP and oral appliance therapy might be necessary. Even if you do not have sleep apnea, maintaining good oral health is crucial. Brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing regularly, and visiting the dentist for checkups and cleanings can help prevent dental problems that could worsen sleep apnea symptoms. Additionally, staying hydrated and using a humidifier at night can combat dry mouth associated with sleep apnea. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, talking to your dentist is a good first step. By working together with a sleep specialist, a dentist can provide valuable dental solutions to improve your sleep quality, overall health, and well-being and learn more. Remember, a healthy mouth contributes to a healthy night’s sleep, and a good night’s sleep is essential for a healthy mouth.