Sleep and dental health is crucial and is considered a very critical component in maintaining optimum health. However, when you or someone you live with snores, that can make getting a good night’s sleep extremely difficult. While snoring can be extremely annoying to listen to, many times it can be indicative of a much larger problem. One example could be obstructive sleep apnea. Many people suffer from this chronic disorder. Those with obstructive sleep apnea often experience pauses in their breathing that occurs while they sleep. The pause in breathing generally is caused by a collapse of the airway or blockage of the airway from within the nose or the mouth, for example. When an airway blockage occurs, this will not only lead to snoring but can also cause many other issues. Some more common problems are irregular heartbeats, an increased risk of high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and even heart failure.
Listen to your body and rest if that is what it is telling you to do. Remember getting plenty of sleep is critical and will help maintain a healthy you.
The month of May is known as Better Sleep Month-so, if you or someone you love snores, there is no better time to address it than now. Treatment is based upon the needs of each individual and can vary depending upon the severity and seriousness of the underlying problem. Treating the problem may range from something as simple as lifestyle changes like losing weight or sleeping in a new and different position to help keep the airway open. There are more invasive surgical options that can be done such as procedures on the nasal passage, soft palate, or tongue.
For severe cases, an individual may be required to wear a medical device called a CPAP. This machine provides continuous positive airway pressure (hence the term CPAP) and forces the airway to stay open allowing for a much better night’s sleep. While wearing a CPAP does take some getting used to, it is incredibly beneficial. Not only will it help you sleep better, but the rest of your body will also benefit. While the previous examples were for more severe cases, those individuals that have mild sleep apnea may be able to find relief with a trip to their dentist.
How are sleep and dental health related?
There may be many contributing factors to OSA, but speaking from a dental standpoint, we can confidently say that a malocclusion and a low-lying soft palate may be adding to your reasons for OSA. Even if you are experiencing other symptoms such as snoring, airway crowding, or you have a deviated septum, there is still a chance that an oral appliance may help. An oral appliance can be useful for both sleep and dental health. Oral appliances can benefit those with mild OSA and even those who have a more severe form of OSA but are unable to tolerate CPAP. It could also be that an oral appliance is the better form of treatment if a person is not a suitable candidate for surgery or has previously failed surgical treatment.
Reading about medical conditions can often be confusing leaving your with more questions than even though possible. Generally speaking, medicine is difficult to understand and that’s why our blog is here. We want to give you the jist, without being too technical. For this reason, let’s tie it together; sleep and dental health. How are sleep apnea, snoring, and the dentist connected? Often, dentists will work together along with other physicians to help address sleep apnea or sleep-related breathing disorders with treatment known as oral appliance therapy. There is a small process to follow, however, to make sure that the problem is adequately addressed.
Here’s how oral appliance therapy typically works:
- First, the patient will undergo a sleep study at a sleep center accredited by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.
- After the test is complete, it will be determined at that point if the patient has sleep apnea. If so, at that point, a physician may recommend wearing an oral appliance during sleep.
This device is similar to that of an orthodontic retainer or mouth guard worn during sports. It helps prevent the airway from closing by either holding the tongue down or supporting the jaw in a forward position. The dentist will then monitor the patient’s progress and provide adjustments as well as follow-up and long-term care.
In short, this is how we can connect sleep and dental health. While it doesn’t include all of the technical jargon and long medical terms, it provides a brief synopsis of how this puzzle fits together.
In most cases of mild and moderate sleep apnea or even a case of slight snoring, oral appliance therapy can provide a great deal of relief as it helps increases airway space. Reuters (4/26, Carroll) reported that investigators who studied nearly 2000 patients who came to a sleep center lab for a formal sleep study, found that almost 40 percent of women who categorized themselves as someone who didn’t snore, actually had levels of moderate to severe snoring at varying intensities. Findings of these studies were then published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. While an oral appliance may seem like a device that is far too simple to help OSA, there have been many proven benefits on how an oral appliance can promote sleep and dental health. Some such benefits include a significant decrease in the number of apneas for back and stomach sleepers, improved overall amount and quality of sleep, reduction in loudness and frequency of snoring, and a higher CPAP compliance rate. Also, since this device is custom made to fit the individual specifically, it is comfortable and effortless to wear. While most over the counter appliances that address sleep apnea are seemingly straightforward, be aware that they do pose limitations.
There are many drug stores and sports equipment retailers that sell moldable mouth guards. Typically, these are ones that can be softened in boiling water and shaped to the mouth. Be cautious; the Center for Sleep Medicine warns that unsupervised use of these over-the-counter devices can lead to dental damage as well as jaw problems. They do not recommend these particular devices to help promote sleep and dental health as this type of device is not a true form of treatment for snoring or sleep apnea.
Talk to your dentist and ask questions, so that you can learn more about the potential benefits of oral appliance therapy. Statistics show that approximately 30 to 50 percent of Americans snore at some point in their lives and it’s not always a result of sleep apnea. It could be a simple, quick fix with a trip to your dentist, but do be sure to get them involved. While it may seem cheaper to try over-the-counter fixes for sleep and dental health, it could end up costing more in the long run. Still thinking that sleep apnea may not be what you have?
What else can cause snoring?
Besides sleep apnea, there are a few other common causes, such as:
- Being overly tired.
- Stuffy nose or clogged sinuses.
- Consuming alcohol or sedatives before bed.
- Allergens such as dust that build up in your bedroom, pillows, and mattress.
- Sleeping on your back.
- Excess body weight.
While this is not a complete list, we picked some of the more prevalent causes aside from sleep apnea, that may be leaving you or your loved one snoring. The first step is to always visit with your doctor or dentist. He or she can then guide you in the right direction so that you get the appropriate treatment. There are also websites that contain great information for patients such as, MouthHealthy.org where they have additional and important information about sleep apnea. The ADA Catalog also offers the brochure, Do You Have Sleep Apnea? Talk to your Lincoln, NE dentist about snoring. Ultimately, the end result that everyone is going for is better sleep and dental health. We all want a happier, healthier, more rested you.
So, while we do have our specialty at Nebraska Family Dentistry, which is dentistry of all kinds and catering to anxious patients, know that we may be able to help those of you who suffer from OSA, too. As previously mentioned, an oral appliance should be prescribed by a trained medical professional. If we do find this to be the best method of treatment for you, be compliant and be sure to have frequent check-ups. Doing so will ensure its long-term benefits and your overall health. Sweet dreams!
This information was written by Dr. Kim Polley. She is a gentle and caring dentist who can be found at the North location of Nebraska Family Dentistry, NorthStar Dental. She has a proven record that shows her dedication not only to dentistry but to you, the patient. Dr. Polley would love to provide you with the absolute best in dental care. You can schedule 24/7 with this Lincoln, NE dentist by visiting the online scheduler.
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