Sleep Apnoea & Your Oral Health

a man sleeping soundly

Sleep apnoea is a common sleep disorder that affects many Australians. It is a condition that can have serious health implications, yet often goes undiagnosed. Whilst people do associate sleep apnoea with negative impacts on general health, the link between this condition and oral health is often overlooked. 

At Dental on York, we have helped many patients with their sleep apnoea, improving their general well-being and protecting their teeth. In this article, we discuss this condition, how it can impact your oral health and how we can help. 

What is Sleep Apnoea?

If you suffer from sleep apnoea, your airways will narrow and/or partially close whilst you sleep. This results in short but very frequent interruptions to your normal breathing. It causes you to wake up, often with a snort or loud snore. Whilst you may have little to no recollection of the constant disturbances to your sleep, they do take their toll.

There are a few kinds of sleep apnoea, but the most common is Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). As your muscles relax while you’re asleep, your tongue can collapse against your soft palate. In turn, this compresses your airway at the back of your throat. This pattern may go on repeatedly through the night. 

Not only does this condition leave you feeling exhausted a lot of the time, but its most common symptom, snoring, can disturb the sleep of those who sleep close to you. 

Whilst sleep apnoea, moreover the snoring it’s usually accompanied by, is perceived culturally as a joke, it shouldn’t be ignored. Left untreated it can lead to a range of serious health problems. For example: 

  • Fatigue
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Heart problems
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Oral health issues 

How Sleep Apnoea Affects Your Oral Health

Sleep apnoea can have many effects on your oral health. There is a significant association between obstructive sleep apnoea and moderate to severe gum disease. However, most commonly, sleep apnoea, left untreated, can result in temporomandibular joint disorder.

It has been shown through multiple studies, that to prevent your airway from becoming blocked during a sleep apnoea episode, your jaw reflexively clenches. This can lead to a range of problems including headaches, neck and shoulder pain, but also cause havoc in your mouth, such as: 

  • worn teeth 
  • chipped, cracked and broken teeth 
  • loose teeth
  • pain when chewing 
  • tooth loss (in severe and untreated cases)

The effects of this condition on teeth are common. So, there is a good chance your dentist may be the first person to spot the signs. This is another reason why maintaining regular and ongoing dental check-ups are so important. As mentioned, you could have sleep apnoea and be doing long-term damage to your teeth, gums and jaw whilst you sleep, unbeknownst to you. Your dentist can help diagnose and treat you before any serious damage is done. 

Sleep Apnoea Risk Factors

Several factors may contribute to sleep apnoea. Some of these factors may include: 

  • Obesity 
  • Alcohol consumption (especially late in the evening)
  • Certain illnesses and conditions, such as an underactive thyroid
  • large tonsils, especially in children
  • Certain medications, such as sleeping tablets
  • Nasal congestion
  • Structural facial elements (bone shape, size of muscles, the position of your jaw)

How Dental On York Can Help

Left untreated, sleep apnoea can have several negative impacts on your health and quality of life. The good news is, Dental on York is here to help you. We can assist you in lowering your risks, reducing your snoring and safeguarding your oral health. 

The first line of treatment for this condition is making lifestyle changes. These can include losing weight and reducing your alcohol intake. If you suffer from low thyroid production or large tonsils, for example, these conditions will need correcting too. 

Our experienced Sydney dentists can work closely with you and your sleep physician. They can help you determine the best treatment path. Based on the severity of your condition, your treatment may include: 

A Mandibular Advancement Splint

In cases of mild to moderate sleep apnoea, our dentists can provide you with a custom made oral device known as a mandibular advancement splint. It is similar to a mouthguard and helps position your jaw in an optimal position for reducing the narrowing of your airways. Not only does this protect your teeth from the ongoing damage caused by this condition, but it also helps you get a good night’s rest.

A ‘CPAP’ Machine

In cases of severe sleep apnoea, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine may be the best treatment option. A CPAP machine is worn over your face while you sleep. It increases your throat’s air pressure and adjusts the position of your bottom jaw. As a result, your airways can stay open, providing you with a steady oxygen flow. Whilst we are unable to provide you with this device, we can point you in the right direction for sourcing one. 

Improve your sleep and protect your oral health with Dental on York. If you have reason to believe you have this condition, make an appointment at our Sydney dental practice to see how we can help you.

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