Did you know that the health of your mouth has a direct connection to the health of your body as a whole? This is known in dentistry and medicine as the oral systemic connection. Medical and dental professionals accept this link as not a single link but rather links for many organ systems and diseases. Research is still ongoing but there are indicators that some oral health conditions, such as periodontal (gum) disease, can lead to health issues in other parts of the body.
As a health-centered dental practice, we at Moorkamp & Arthur Family Dentistry go beyond just checking your teeth for cavities and helping you to prevent your gums from bleeding. We believe the oral cavity is responsible for your overall health and improper care or function can lead to many systemic conditions. The overall condition of your teeth and oral cavity can also lead to diagnoses of various systemic conditions including sleep apnea.
It is estimated by the National Sleep Foundation that 18 million people in our country suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night. A person will have a number of these pauses in breathing or “apneic” events with the higher the number the more severe the condition. An apneic event triggers the brain to breathe, disturbing your sleep and leading to a restless night’s sleep.
There are many symptoms associated with sleep apnea to include persistent snoring, teeth grinding, daytime drowsiness, and headaches when you wake up. These symptoms alone are not indicative of sleep apnea and a sleep study by a medical professional is needed to definitively diagnose sleep apnea. However, it is important to bring these symptoms up to your dental or medical provider due to sleep apnea being associated with increased risks for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Sleep apnea can be caused by many different reasons, but the most common causes include physical blocking of the airway by a large tongue, small lower jaw, and/or relaxed throat muscles. This is referred to as obstructive sleep apnea and is frequently associated with obesity. Other causes of sleep apnea can be caused by improper signaling to the muscles that control breathing, this is called central sleep apnea and is not as common and often associated with another disorder.
As dentists, we can catch the early signs of sleep apnea with both a thorough medical history and comprehensive oral examination. Many signs of sleep apnea show up in the mouth to include tooth wear from grinding, scalloped tongue, and throat irritation or redness often associated with persistent snoring. Dentists can work along with our medical colleagues by recommending sleep studies and having a proper diagnosis of sleep apnea and the severity. Together we can then proceed with treatment through a variety of oral appliances to treat sleep apnea.
At Moorkamp & Arthur Family Dentistry, we can help you treat your sleep apnea through a variety of oral appliances to help open your airway during sleep. We can also help manage any oral symptoms that arise as a result of some of the detrimental side effects of sleep apnea. Contact our office if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea or have any questions regarding sleep apnea to see if we can be of assistance to helping you get back on track to living a happy, healthier, sleep-filled night.