If you are one of the millions of men and women who suffer with snoring and/or sleep apnea, life may be miserable. Disturbed sleep can result in daytime fatigue and irritability, and snoring can often cause problems between you and your partner. You may also be experiencing painful symptoms like headaches, jaw discomfort, and a sore throat upon waking. With snoring and sleep apnea having such a negative impact on so many areas of a person’s life, more and more people are seeking answers and help.
Though it can sound like a stretch, you may be surprised to learn that your dental health and sleep issues actually have a strong correlation with one another. For this reason, your dentist is a great place to start in your journey to better sleep. Dr. Jeffrey Allred and the compassionate team at Allred Dental in San Marcos, CA understand the sensitive and often overwhelming issue of disturbed sleep and are committed to helping patients find solutions that will improve their lives exponentially. To better determine how a visit to the dentist may be beneficial to your sleep, it is important to first understand the relationship between oral health, snoring, and sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition marked by repetitive periods of waking up throughout the sleep cycle. Patients with sleep apnea have obstructed air flow, causing them to momentarily “stop” breathing, signaling the body to wake up and take a breath. Though it is a common condition, sleep apnea can potentially be very serious and even deadly if left undiagnosed and untreated. Sleep apnea can also increase the risk for other health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. If you think you have sleep apnea, it is essential that you be evaluated by a medical professional.
What causes sleep apnea?
There are various kinds of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea. For patients with obstructive sleep apnea, the throat muscles relax and obstruct airflow during sleep. This can be caused by a number of issues, including a large tongue or small jaw.
How do I know if I have sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea can only be diagnosed by a medical professional and usually requires a number of tests, including a sleep study. However, oftentimes your dentist will recognize a number of signs and symptoms that may lead to a sleep apnea diagnosis. Some of the most common signs that you may have sleep apnea include:
- Snoring – can be caused by nasal congestion, enlarged tonsils, and an obstructed airway
- Disrupted sleep – caused by obstructed airflow and the need to take a breath
- Red throat – from snoring and obstructed airflow
- Dry mouth – from sleeping with an open mouth while snoring
- Tooth wear – from clenching and grinding your teeth at night
How is sleep apnea related to my dental health?
Bruxing and grinding your teeth can be a telltale sign of sleep problems. During a dental examination, your dentist can easily identify the wear patterns associated with these behaviors, often leading to the exploration of a sleep apnea diagnosis. Dr. Allred has treated countless patients who suffer from sleep disorders and associated dental issues and is highly experienced in identifying the oral signs and symptoms of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can also lead to a variety of dental and oral issues. Most of these are related to snoring, which leaves the mouth open for long periods of time during sleep. When the mouth remains open, there is an excessive loss of saliva, resulting in an overly dry oral cavity. Surprisingly, saliva performs many essential functions for preserving our oral health, including:
- Washing away dead cells
- Slowing bacteria growth
- Preventing dryness and burning of the mouth and oral tissues
When a patient snores as a result of sleep apnea and has a dry mouth, formally known as xerostomia, her or she can experience tooth decay, bad breath, gum disease, infection, mouth sores, and many other problems. Dr. Allred is committed to identifying and correcting the underlying cause of patients’ sleep apnea and treating the associated dental and oral symptoms.
How can I fix my dental problems associated with sleep apnea?
The first step in determining how your oral care may be affecting your sleep, and vice versa, is to be evaluated by a qualified, certified, and knowledgeable dentist. In addition to being a Diplomat of the American Board of Oral Implantology, Dr. Jeffrey Allred is also a leader in the field of general dentistry and sleep-related oral issues in San Marcos, CA. Dr. Allred has successfully treated countless patients for sleep-related oral issues, enhancing their lives, relationships, and more.
If you think you may have sleep-related dental problems, call our office to schedule your consultation with Dr. Allred today, and take the first step toward a better night’s sleep!