How Your Dentist Can Diagnose Sleep Apnea
Do you often wake up feeling tired despite a full and seemingly good night's sleep? These feelings could mean more than just a case of not being a morning person. It might be an indication of sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder that dentists are trained to help recognize.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea involves repeated interruptions in breathing while asleep, which can be caused by a lack of effort to breathe, physical obstruction of airflow, or a combination of both. These pauses can last from a few seconds to several minutes and can occur more than 30 times per hour.
Sleep Apnea Signs Dentists Look For
Your dentist may be the first to notice or inquire about symptoms of sleep apnea. Here are some signs they often observe:
- Receding or swollen gums— if you have sleep apnea, you are more likely to experience dry mouth, which may lead to gum disease, causing the gums to recede.
- Tongue with scalloped edges— sometimes, individuals with sleep apnea unconsciously press their tongue to the bottom of the mouth to try to get the airway open during sleep. After a while, the sides of the tongue can appear to be waved or notched.
- Worn tooth surfaces—these are often a sign of stress and tension on the jaw, which can be caused by the brain not getting enough oxygen during sleep.
- Teeth grinding (bruxism), leading to wear and potential breakage
- Increased cavities— this is due to tooth damage from grinding as well as increased bacterial growth in the mouth and decreased saliva production
- Throat redness (resulting from excessive snoring)
Suppose a physical blockage of airflow is the root cause. In that case, it's termed Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the most prevalent form of sleep apnea. Dentists can also sometimes detect sleep apnea from the size and shape of your anatomy.
Other OSA symptoms include:
- Choking or gasping attempts to sleep
- Frequent nighttime awakenings
- Night sweats
- Morning headaches
- Loud snoring
- Elevated blood pressure
- Dry mouth upon waking
These symptoms can significantly impact sleep quality, leading to daytime fatigue. Moreover, sleep apnea is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.
While dentists can't officially provide a diagnosis of sleep apnea, they are often among the first to identify symptoms or assess your risk of developing the condition. Your jaw and related structures can contribute to OSA.
A dental examination and X-rays of your neck and mouth may reveal unusually large tissues in the throat or other airway blockages. If they detect any physical obstructions, they will recommend consulting a doctor for further evaluation.
Sleep Apnea? Let Dunedin Dental Associates Help
At Dunedin Dental Associates, our dentists are thoroughly trained and experienced in recognizing the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. We can even offer a few treatment options. If you don't have sleep apnea but experience extreme snoring, we might be able to help as well.