Missing a restful sleep?
Do you often wake up feeling groggy and unrested? Do you suffer from a dry mouth during the night? You may have sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea is a common sleep disorder that affects many Australians but often goes undiagnosed. It can have serious implants on your general health and wellbeing. The link between this condition and your oral health is significant.
At Dental on York we have successfully helped many patients manage their sleep apnoea. Managing your sleep apnoea can improve your general wellbeing and protect your teeth.
What is sleep apnoea?
Sleep apnoea is one of the most common disorders, it affects up to 38% of the general population in Australia. Sleep apnoea occurs when your airways narrow and/or partially close during sleep. This causes interruptions in your normal breathing. These interruptions in breathing cause you to wake, often with a loud snorting noise. You may have little or no recollection of these episodes but the interruptions to your sleep can take a toll.
While there are multiple types of sleep apnoea the most common type is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). Your tongue collapses against your soft palate as your muscles relax during sleep causing compression in your airways. This goes on repeatedly throughout the night causing you to wake constantly. This disorder not only causes exhaustion it can also cause loud snoring which can interrupt the sleep of those around you.
Snoring is often waved off or laughed at, but it shouldn’t be ignored. It’s often the first noticeable symptom of sleep apnoea. Left untreated, sleep apnoea can cause:
- Heart problems
- Oral health issues
Common symptoms of sleep apnoea
The symptoms of sleep apnoea vary between patients. Even though there are different kinds of sleep apnoea the symptoms are often the same so it can be difficult to differentiate. Some of the most common signs and symptoms are:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Loud snoring
- Episodes during sleep in which you stop breathing (usually reported by another person)
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Waking up with a headache
- Difficulty paying attention while awake
If you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms, or if someone else notices them during sleep, you should seek the help of a medical professional.
How sleep apnoea affects your oral health
Sleep apnoea can affect your oral health in a few ways. There is a significant association between obstructive sleep apnoea and gum disease. However, the most common oral side effect of untreated sleep apnoea is temporomandibular joint disorder.
This is caused by your jaw joint reflexively clenching to prevent your airway from being blocked. Whilst this is protecting your airways it is damaging your temporomandibular joint and causing multiple oral health problems such as:
- Worn out teeth
- Cracked, chipped and damaged teeth
- Loosened teeth
- Dental pain
- Tooth loss (in severe cases)
Because of these common oral side effects, your dentist may be the first one to discover your sleep apnoea. This is another reason why regular dental check-ups are so important. Your dentist can also help you to diagnose and treat the disorder.
Sleep apnoea risk factors
There are a few factors that put people at a higher risk of developing sleep apnoea. This includes:
- Obesity: excessive weight can cause sleep apnoea because fat deposits in the neck can obstruct your airways.
- Neck circumference: people with larger neck circumferences often have narrow airways.
- A narrow airway: this may be inherited or caused by another condition but it puts you at greater risk of breathing obstructions during sleep.
- Males: men are twice as likely to develop sleep apnoea than women.
- Age: older people are at greater risk of developing sleep apnoea.
- Family history: sleep apnoea can be caused by genetics.
- Alcohol: alcohol relaxed the muscles in your neck creating a higher risk of obstruction.
- Sedatives and/or tranquilisers: these substances also relax the muscles in your neck.
- Smoking: people who smoke are three times more likely to develop sleep apnoea than those who don’t. This is because smoking increases the inflammation and fluid retention in your upper airway.
- Nasal congestion: you’re more likely to develop sleep apnoea if you have chronic nasal congestion issues. These issues may be caused by allergies or anatomical problems.
- Pre-existing medical conditions: some medical conditions can increase your risk of developing sleep apnoea. These conditions include congestive heart failure, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, parkinson’s disease and asthma.
Treatment options for sleep apnoea
Sleep apnoea can negatively impact your life when left untreated. Luckily, there are multiple treatment options available to you. At Dental on York, we can help you treat and manage the disorder by working alongside your sleep physician. The first step in treatment is making lifestyle changes. If your sleep apnea is caused by a preventable risk such as weight or smoking then you should aim to make some changes. By losing weight, quitting smoking and living a healthier lifestyle you can manage your sleep apnoea. Other treatment options include:
Mandibular advancement splint
Mild cases of sleep apnoea can be treated with a custom-made mouth splint. The device looks similar to a mouthguard and is worn during sleep. It works by keeping your jaw in an optimal position to reduce the risk of narrowing airways. The device can protect your oral health and give you a restful night’s sleep.
More severe cases of sleep apnoea can be treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. The machine is attached to a mask that is worn over your mouth during sleep. It increases the air pressure in your throat and keeps your jaw in a better position. This allows your airways to remain open to receive a continuous steady flow of oxygen. We do not provide these machines at Dental on York but can point you in the right direction for one.
FAQs about sleep apnoea
Sleep apnoea is a common disorder that affects a large number of the population. We get many questions about the disorder. So, we’ve compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions we get from patients. If you’d like to know more then give us a call. We’re always happy to answer questions over the phone.
What causes sleep apnoea?
Sleep apnoea can be caused by a variety and combination of factors. There is a family history link between patients with sleep apnoea. There are also certain medical conditions that can put you at risk of developing the disorder. Lastly, there are a range of lifestyle factors including diet and weight that can cause sleep apnoea.
What happens when sleep apnoea is left untreated?
If you leave your sleep apnoea untreated it can cause a range of issues affecting your general and oral health. This includes fatigue, hypertension, increased risk of stroke, heart issues, decayed teeth and temporomandibular joint disorder. It’s best to catch the signs early so that your sleep apnoea can be managed and further health issues avoided.
Are you suffering from sleep apnoea? Have you noticed symptoms in your partner? Book in for a consultation with one of our knowledgeable dentists today.