Millions of people suffer from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. There are three different types of sleep apnea, including obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea, and a mix of the two.
Sleep apnea has many effects on the body, but did you know that it can also affect your oral health? Here’s how untreated sleep apnea may cause problems for your smile!
Dry Mouth Can Lead to an Increased Risk for Cavities
In obstructive sleep apnea, your airway becomes blocked during sleep due to the muscles collapsing around the airway, leading to an inability to get air into the lungs. The brain will then signal you to wake up so breathing can resume.
When air has trouble getting into the lungs yet has not stopped completely, it will create a vibration in your throat leading to snoring. Snoring is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea.
Snoring also causes the mouth to remain open during sleep in an effort to get enough air into the body. Breathing through the mouth causes the oral cavity to dry out, which can lead to an increase in oral bacteria that could influence your risk for cavities .
Saliva flow is already reduced during sleep, so mouth breathing can exacerbate this effect to make tooth enamel damage more likely.
People With Sleep Disorders May Be More at Risk for Bruxism
Research has linked sleep disorders such as sleep apnea to an increased risk for bruxism, also known as teeth grinding . The connection isn’t well understood, but people who suffer from sleep apnea should be evaluated for teeth grinding during their regular dental exam.
Getting treatment for bruxism is essential, as it can lead to fractured teeth, gum inflammation, and even tooth loss. Symptoms may include morning headaches, sensitive teeth, or a sore jaw or teeth.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Has Been Associated With Gum Disease
If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common type of sleep apnea, you may be more at risk for gum disease .
While the link between the two isn’t conclusive, experts speculate that the systemic inflammation OSA causes may make gum disease more likely. However, more research is needed to better understand the connection between the two disorders.
What Can You Do?
There are a few things you can do to help reduce sleep apnea’s effect on your smile:
- Get treatment for sleep apnea. Getting treatment for sleep apnea can help reduce or
eliminate your symptoms and protect your oral health!
- Don’t put off those dental visits. Your dentist can help you manage any oral health issues you’re having as the result of your sleep apnea. Your dentist may even be able to help treat your sleep apnea through what’s called an oral appliance, which is a retainer- like device that helps keep your airway open when sleeping.
- Engage in regular oral care. Keeping your smile healthy by brushing and flossing daily in addition to eating healthy can help you keep your teeth and gums problem-free for a beautiful smile!
If you suffer from sleep apnea, don’t neglect those regular dental visits—they could save your smile and even help address your sleep apnea symptoms with oral appliance therapy!