Sleep Apnea and Your Oral Health

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Do you struggle with snoring and sleeplessness in McKinney, Texas? Head to McKinney family dentist Dr. Lawrence and the rest of our McKinney Smiles team to see if you may be suffering from sleep apnea. A very common yet potentially life-threatening sleep disorder, sleep apnea and oral health issues often go hand in hand. Read on to learn more about sleep apnea and how it connects to your oral health.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes repeated breathing interruptions or pauses (aka apneas) while you sleep. These pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes each time and may occur 30 or more times an hour. Because sleep apnea disrupts your sleep cycle, it can greatly affect your energy and mental performance during the day. And over time, it can affect your long-term health as well.
Sleep apnea can develop in a few different ways. The first is obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of apnea, which causes the throat muscles to relax. The second is central sleep apnea, which develops when the brain doesn’t send the correct signals to the muscles that regulate breathing. The third is complex sleep apnea syndrome, which occurs when a patient has both central and obstructive sleep apnea.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep apnea affects 25 million adults in the United States. While not as common, children can also be affected by sleep apnea as well.

What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

There are a wide range of signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, including dental problems such as bruxism. The following are some of the most common:
  • Chronic and/or loud snoring
  • Bruxism, or the clenching or grinding of teeth while sleeping
  • Experiencing a sore throat, dry mouth or headache after waking up in the morning
  • Waking abruptly from sleep, followed by shortness of breath
  • Trouble getting to – or staying – asleep
  • Drowsy or excessively tired during the day
  • Irritability and/or problems focusing or paying attention
  • TMJ disorders, which can cause pain in your jaw joint and the surrounding muscles
It’s important to note that the signs of central and obstructive sleep apnea signs can overlap, which can make diagnosing the type of apnea trickier. If you’re dealing with one or more of the symptoms above, be sure to discuss it with Dr. Lawrence. He can determine if your symptoms are related to sleep apnea or another sleep disorder and suggest treatment options.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

As mentioned above, sleep apnea can develop due to various physical issues, like weak airway muscles, a large tongue or being overweight. With obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles located in the back of the throat relax during sleep. Normally, these muscles work to support the soft palate – a triangular shaped tissue that hangs from the side walls of the throat, the tonsils, the soft palate and the tongue. Your airway in the throat narrows as the muscles relax, causing you to receive an inadequate amount of air.
With central sleep apnea, the brain doesn’t send the correct signals to the muscles that regulate breathing. In both cases, your brain receives a signal that the body isn’t receiving enough oxygen and briefly wakes you from sleep so that the airway can reopen. Usually, the time awake is so brief that you’re unaware you ever woke up.

How We Can Help

If you suspect you suffer from sleep apnea, schedule a sleep apnea consultation with your dentist in McKinney, Dr. Paul Lawrence, today. Treatment can help to ease your symptoms so you rest better at night and may help to prevent the health complications linked to sleep apnea such as heart failure, stroke, hypertension, depression and diabetes. For a sleep apnea consultation, contact our McKinney dentistry today.