How Sleep Apnea Affects Oral Health

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What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax while an individual is asleep and block their airway, ultimately interrupting their ability to breath. These pauses in breath may happen for a few seconds or a few minutes, and can repeat thirty times within a single hour. Usually, individuals wake up when they’re unable to breathe, which affects their ability to get a decent night’s rest. Other times normal breathing will resume on its own followed by a loud snort or choking sound.

What are the Negative Effects of Sleep Apnea?

Unfortunately, one-in-four people suffering from sleep apnea grind their teeth at night, which could lead to tooth decay and cracked or damaged teeth. For individuals who wake up with tight jaw muscles, sensitive teeth, or still tired after a full night’s rest, they could be suffering from sleep apnea.

How Sleep Apnea Affects Oral HealthSleep apnea usually produces chronic pain disorders, such as jaw pain like temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ or TMD. If an individual is experiencing extreme pain when opening or moving their jaws, they may be suffering from one of these conditions.

Because people suffering from sleep apnea are more likely to breathe through their mouth, their protective saliva gets dried out, which is why they’re more prone to experiencing tooth decay. When there isn’t enough saliva being produced, the mouth is unable to wash away the acid-creating bacteria that attacks the outer layers of the teeth. This type of bacteria usually eats on leftover food, which wouldn’t be present if enough saliva was being produced to wash the bacteria and food away.

Other negative effects of sleep apnea include worn-out front teeth, pain when chewing, and missing teeth.

Is Sleep Apnea Treatable?

For dental issues caused by sleep apnea, dentists may be able to suggest using a dental guard or an oral splint to prevent further damage to the teeth that result from grinding or clenching. For those suffering from moderate sleep apnea, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device may be recommended, which is a mask that is placed over the nose overnight to keep the air pressure pathways open. Individuals who use this device have reportedly stopped suffering from sleep apnea and teeth grinding.

No matter what, it’s best for individuals to discuss their symptoms with their doctor or dentist so that they receive appropriate treatment options from a trusted medical professional who knows the details about a patient’s particular condition.

San Diego General & Family Dentistry

At McBride Dental, our top priority is to help our clients maintain a healthy, beautiful smile that they can be proud of. We offer a number of dental services to help suit each of our clients’ needs depending on their unique case. Some of our services include dental cleaning, exams, implants and crowns, gum disease treatment, and implant dentures. We work with our clients to help them maintain optimal oral health for the rest of their lives. If you are in the San Diego area and are looking for a dental office, call 760-471-1003 to schedule an appointment with us today.


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