Deerfield, IL
(224) 282-8939

Lakeview, IL
(773) 525-5545

Cartoon of a man sleeping in bed on his back

A restful night’s sleep is not just a luxury; it’s vital for maintaining overall health and well-being. However, for many individuals, sleep apnea, a common yet often undiagnosed sleep disorder, stands in the way of restorative rest. The impact of sleep apnea goes beyond sleep quality; it can significantly affect oral health.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes shallow breathing during sleep or complete pauses in breathing. These pauses can last from several seconds to minutes and occur multiple times per hour.

There are three categories of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea (CSA), obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and complex sleep apnea syndrome (CompSAS). OSA, the most prevalent form, occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, resulting in partial or complete blockage during sleep.

CSA occurs when the brain stops signaling to the nerves and muscles that control respiration, leading you to stop breathing. CompSAS is when someone experiences CSA-like symptoms after treating OSA with a CPAP machine.

How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Your Oral Health?

Sleep apnea has a significant impact on oral health. Frequent pauses in respiration often lead to mouth breathing, which can cause a host of dental issues. Two main factors contributing to these issues are dry mouth and tooth decay.

Dry Mouth and Tooth Decay

Saliva is vital for maintaining a healthy oral environment by neutralizing acids, removing food particles, and inhibiting bacterial growth. A decrease in saliva production due to a dry mouth can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Increased Plaque

Reduced saliva production allows plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, to accumulate on teeth and gum lines. Plaque buildup can lead to cavities, bad breath, and gum inflammation, which may progress to more serious gum disease if left unaddressed.

Mouth Sores

Dry mouth can also cause mouth sores, as the lack of saliva makes the oral tissues more susceptible to irritation and injury. These sores can be painful and may become infected if not properly managed.

Gum Disease

Persistent dry mouth contributes to gum disease, an infection of the gums caused by plaque accumulation. Untreated gum disease can lead to periodontitis and tooth loss. It has also been linked to other health issues like diabetes and heart disease.

Treating Your Dry Mouth

There are several ways to manage dry mouth, including over-the-counter or prescription mouthwashes specifically designed to alleviate dryness or artificial saliva products. Your dentist may also recommend medication to stimulate saliva production or suggest lifestyle changes, such as increasing water intake and avoiding alcohol and tobacco.

Diagnosing and Treating Sleep Apnea

Addressing the root cause of sleep apnea is crucial for preventing and treating associated dental problems. To diagnose sleep apnea, you can take the Epworth Sleepiness Test or try the Apnea Risk Evaluation System (ARES) at-home test from Smile On Dental Salon & Sleep Apnea Center.

The ARES test uses a forehead sensor you wear while sleeping. This device measures your pulse rate, blood oxygen saturation, airflow, and head position to assess your sleep profile. It is an excellent alternative to an in-clinic sleep study that you can perform in your home.

If your test indicates that you have sleep apnea, one effective treatment option is a custom-fitted night guard provided by your dentist. This oral appliance helps keep your airway open during sleep by repositioning your lower jaw and tongue.

It is a non-invasive and comfortable solution for those with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Other treatment options may include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy or lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and avoiding alcohol.

Sleep Apnea and Oral Health: Protecting Your Smile

If you suspect sleep apnea may be affecting your oral health, contact Smile On Dental Salon & Sleep Apnea Center. Our experienced dental team can help identify the problem and provide personalized solutions for your needs. Call us today at our locations in Deerfield (224) 282-8939 or Lakeview (773) 525-5545. Don’t let sleep apnea steal your smile!

Be proud of your smile.