April 8, 2020
Getting enough sleep every night is crucial for keeping your body healthy and staying alert during the day. When there’s a problem with your airway, you may suffer from a disorder called sleep apnea that leaves you feeling exhausted during the day and could even put your life in danger. It’s best to have your condition diagnosed and treated quickly to avoid long-term complications – and you may be surprised to know that your dentist can be an important part of the solution.
Causes and Consequences of Sleep Apnea
The most common form of sleep apnea – obstructive sleep apnea – occurs when the airway becomes blocked somehow. For children, common obstructions include large tonsils and adenoids; adults, on the other hand, usually experience blockage that occurs due to the collapse of soft tissues in the mouth and throat. In any case, when you can no longer breathe freely, oxygen levels drop, and the brain is forced to wake the body up to correct the problem. Such awakenings happen multiple times every night.
Over the long term, people with sleep apnea suffer from chronic exhaustion, making them more likely to get into accidents while driving. Furthermore, the stress on the cardiovascular system due to frequent oxygen deprivation can lead to heart disease, strokes, and other potentially fatal health issues.
How a Dentist Can Help Identify and Treat Sleep Apnea
Your dentist might find warning signs of a sleep disorder during your regular checkups. For example, sleep apnea is often connected to bruxism (grinding of the teeth at night). If your dentist finds signs that your teeth are becoming unusually worn down, it could be cause for concern. Forward head posture, enlarged tonsils, and mouth breathing are also possible factors that could be linked to sleep apnea.
You can report worrisome symptoms such as headaches and high blood pressure during these visits. Keep in mind that you visit your dentist more frequently than you do your doctor; as such, the dentist will have more opportunities to recognize sleep apnea.
If a sleep disorder is suspected, your dentist can arrange for you to undergo a sleep study in order to definitively diagnose the condition. After that, an appropriate treatment can be devised. One common solution is to wear a customized oral appliance; such a device can reposition the jaw or tongue in order to keep the airway open while you’re asleep. Other forms of treatment may also be considered.
Ignoring sleep apnea for too long can be extremely hazardous to your health, so it’s important to take the initiative in addressing any problems with your breathing. If you have any reason to suspect that you aren’t sleeping well at night, discuss your symptoms with your dentist.
About the Author
Dr. Jose A. Bushdid has been trained in many different areas of dentistry and works to make sure that his practice, Bushdid Smiles, is always up-to-date with the latest technology. He can help diagnose sleep disorders related to an obstructed airway and can point his patients in the direction of an appropriate treatment. To schedule an appointment at his Coral Gables office, visit his website or call (305) 444-5926.
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