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Oral Health 101: What to Know about Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common disorder among adults, wherein they experience pauses or shallow breaths while sleeping. The breathing pauses may last for a few seconds to several minutes, occurring over 30 times or more within an hour. Sleep apnea reduces the quality of sleep, which may contribute to daytime sleepiness and exhaustion. The condition may also cause oral problems like malocclusion and temperomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder if left untreated.

Sleep apnea symptoms may include the following:

  • Dry throat
  • Loud snoring
  • Morning headaches
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Jaw pains
  • Waking up with a choking or gasping sensation
  • Insomnia
  • Mood changes

Sleep apnea causes

Genetic abnormality may be one of the reasons for sleep apnea. Excessive tissue at the back of the tongue, throat or nose may block the airway and cause cessation in breathing. The condition may also arise if your brain fails to send signals to the muscles responsible for breathing. The muscles may tend to relax due to the wrong signals, narrowing or closing the airway as you breathe.

Sleep apnea treatment

Your dentist may refer you to a sleep specialist or ENT doctor to diagnose your condition. ENT doctors may work with orthodontists and oral surgeons to remove the obstruction in your airway passage. Surgeons may administer jaw repositioning to give space for the tongue and soft palate, reducing airway obstruction. Some dentists may also recommend using oral appliances to keep the throat open and relieve snoring during sleep.

If bruxism (teeth grinding) is involved, dentists may advise the use of mouth guards to prevent damaging your teeth. Dentists may also recommend the use of braces or aligners if malocclusion contributes to teeth grinding and sleep apnea.

Living a healthy lifestyle may also reduce the chances of sleep apnea. Keep your body in its proper weight, as this may help relieve the obstruction in your throat. Avoid consuming too much alcohol because they may relax the muscles at the back of your throat and interfere with breathing.

Call or visit our office for more information if you’re suffering from sleep apnea. We may discuss appropriate solutions to help you with your condition.