At our Jacksonville, Florida office we practice wellness dentistry. This means that we believe that oral health is but one component of your total health. For you to thrive holistically, every system must be healthy and in sync. The mouth is the window to the entire body, from what you eat and how you maintain oral health, everything matters. Even the way you sleep can affect your oral health.Snoring can often be an indication of a much larger issue, sleep apnea. Snoring and sleep apnea can deprive you of much-needed sleep, and actually be detrimental to your oral health as well as your overall well-being.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition that can vary in severity. It is usually characterized by snoring at night while you sleep. However snoring is not always a direct symptoms of sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea actually stop breathing while they sleep. Some people stop breathing for a few seconds before their body starts up again, others can cease to breathe for minutes at a time. In patients with severe sleep apnea, this can occur more than 30 times every hour.
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction if the airway. The soft tissues in the back of the the mouth including the tongue and soft palate become relaxed and stop the air flow. Snoring occurs when small amounts of air are able to get past the obstruction to the patient’s lungs. Loud snoring with sudden stops and starts is often what tips people off to a possible sleep apnea diagnosis. The only way to diagnose sleep apnea is with the sleep study. If you are worried that you are suffering from sleep apnea, Dr. Shields will be able to help you find a sleep study physician to begin your diagnosis.
Why is Sleep Apnea Harmful to My Health?
Snoring due to sleep apnea does a lot more than keep you up at night. If you ever fear you or your partner may have sleep apnea it is very important to seek diagnosis and find treatment. This disorder can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure, arrhythmia, and the fatigue associated with this lack of sleep increases the odds of being in an automobile accident or becoming injured while at work.
Unfortunately, this disorder – while harming your entire body – also chips away at your oral health too. Snoring causes a condition called xerostomia, more well-known as dry mouth. When you snore, saliva dries up and this is very problematic for your mouth. Saliva is responsible for washing away the bacteria and sloughed off cells in your mouth. When these cells are not removed by saliva, they are able to remain on the teeth and gums. Bad breath is the tip of the iceberg. This increased bacterial growth can cause infections and sores, and eventually lead to periodontal disease and tooth decay.
What Can I Do About Sleep Apnea?
If you fear you have sleep apnea, the first thing to do is to contact your dentist or doctor. They will be able to order a sleep test,or a polysomnogram, for you. For this you will be required to attend a sleep study where your sleep is monitored for one night. Your doctor will be able to determine the severity of your sleep apnea through this test how many times you stop breathing and the duration of each pause. Once this is established there are many treatment options available. Most sleep apnea patients benefit greatly from a breathing machine called a CPAP.
These machines provide a flow of oxygen and help you breathe while you sleep. For other patients with a less severe condition, sometimes an occlusal appliance, similar to a night guard, will help the patient with their snoring and mild sleep apnea.
At Smiles by Shields we understand that lack of sleep from a condition like sleep apnea can cause much more harm to the body then just the threat of bad breath and tooth decay. We urge all of our patients to inquire about sleep apnea if they fear they have it. This condition has many treatments and can improve your overall well-being if diagnosed. If you have questions about sleep apnea please give us a call today