Did you know there are both dental and health benefits of treating sleep apnea? Sleeping disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are a common cause of dental problems and overall fatigue. Even if you don’t snore or notice yourself waking up frequently throughout the night, you could have sleep-disordered breathing. Certain types of apneas — such as OSA — can affect more than just your quality of life; they can also destroy your smile.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that sleeping disorders can start at their mouths. While not every type of sleeping problem is the same, those like OSA originate in the oral cavity. This is why they’re much more prone to impact your smile and require the assistance of a sleep dentistry team to treat them.
Aside from the occasional snoring or just feeling tired during the day, there are serious health and wellness issues that can develop if you don’t treat sleep apnea in a timely manner. Choosing to take early action can help you access the dental and health benefits of treating sleep apnea before complications become too severe.
Less Wear to Teeth and Dental Work
People who have obstructive sleep apnea experience obvious physical symptoms such as teeth clenching and grinding (bruxism) during their sleep. The bruxism effect is a result of oxygen deprivation to the brain. In turn, the physical instinct of your body is to clench your jaws tightly together, placing extensive amounts of strain on your tooth enamel.
When this process is allowed to repeat itself day in and day out (because of untreated sleep apnea) it will take a gradual toll on your enamel and existing dental work. Although tooth enamel is the hardest substance in your entire body, it’s not invincible. Nor is your dental work. Things like your teeth, existing fillings, and dental crowns can start to chip and break apart if sleep apnea goes untreated. Even if you wear a night guard while you’re sleeping, it may buffer the pressure but not help with the actual problem going on.
Not all sleep is “good” sleep. You can technically be sleeping and still not get the deeper level of sleep that your brain and body need to boost your metabolism. That’s why you can have a full 8 hours of what seems like sleep, but still feel completely exhausted once you wake up the next morning.
Your energy level won’t be the only thing lacking, either. You might also feel headache or migraine symptoms as you try to power through the day, leaving you feeling as if caffeine is the only answer.
By addressing your sleeping disorder through holistic measures — and naturally improving air flow — your body will get the quality rest it needs to have healthy energy levels the next day.
Think of the dental and health benefits of treating sleep apnea like you would charging your phone. If the cord is bad, the connection is glitchy. You might wake up the next morning and your phone is only 40% charged, instead of 100%. Or maybe you see slower charge times when it’s plugged into your car as you drive around town. But when you have a good cord and the connections are all there, the battery is able to become sufficiently charged in a decent amount of time.
It’s the same when you’re breathing. Without full oxygen intake to your lungs, limited oxygen makes it through your circulatory system and to your brain. Simply because there’s airway blockage or some type of sleeping disorder that interferes with your breathing. Snoring may not even be evident. By addressing your oxygen flow and boosting healthy air intake into your lungs, your body has more energy and “charge” once you wake up the next day.
Better Weight Control
Believe it or not, poor sleep quality — like that seen in sleep apnea — alters your body and the way you eat. When you’re tired, your body needs energy from other sources: like food. People tend to be hungrier when they don’t eat well because their body is trying to store up enough energy to get through the day.
On the other hand, if you’re getting enough sleep, your body is getting the rest it needs to generate its own energy. In that case, you won’t be craving as many calorie-dense foods as you would if you aren’t sleeping well.
What does all of this mean? Untreated sleep apnea can directly impact your waistline. It may be extremely difficult to control cravings and meal portions if you’re not sleeping well. But if you’re able to increase your oxygen flow while you’re sleeping, your body will be better rested once you wake up the next morning. In turn, you could experience an improved appetite where you’re satisfied by eating fewer calories.
A large neck circumference is a warning sign for obstructive sleep apnea. Part of the reason for that is because weight gain causes a higher density of tissues in your neck, which then restricts oxygen flow because of physical blockage. The two go partly hand in hand.
Enhanced Memory and Focus
Untreated sleeping disorders such as obstructive apnea mean your body isn’t getting the oxygen and rest it needs to function properly each day. Sleep deprivation often presents itself as difficulty concentrating or maintaining focus. If you’re having trouble following directions or remembering what you’re doing, it might not just be everyday distractions. You could have a physical medical condition that’s contributing to the problem.
Just think about it. Any time your children have a major test at school, what does the office tell everyone to do? Go home and get a good night’s rest. That’s because they want everyone to have enough sleep to focus on the big day ahead. You send the kids to bed at a reasonable time instead of letting them stay up late playing video games.
As an adult, we need good sleep too. Only sometimes it takes a bit of effort to find it. If you think you’re sleeping enough but you still can’t concentrate well, you might have apnea and not realize it.
Ok, so you might not be used to discussing this one with your dentist, but untreated sleep apnea can definitely impact your sex drive and reproductive health. When you consider that periodontal infections can also negatively alter a couple’s ability to conceive, those trips to the dentist for checkups and sleep apnea screenings don’t seem all that weird after all. A healthier smile and better sleep quality could be beneficial for both partners alike.
Dental Treatments for Sleep Apnea
Fortunately, treatment for sleep apnea can be found at an unconventional place: your dentist’s office. At Raleigh Dental Arts, we incorporate advanced oral appliance therapy to combat obstructive sleep apnea at its source: your mouth.
Since OSA is caused by airway blockage at the back of your mouth, dental devices for sleep apnea can work alone or alongside CPAP machines. Many people find that they’re able to replace their CPAP entirely, as long as they work with a highly experienced sleep dentistry provider.
How it Works
Oral sleep appliances for OSA are a type of “mandibular advancement device.” They work by gently positioning your lower jaw in a slightly forward/anterior position, which naturally helps prevent blockage between your tongue, tonsils, soft palate (roof of the mouth), and the back of your upper airway. As a result, your airway is naturally enlarged and oxygen flows more freely.
Dental sleep devices are made using special equipment and scans of your oral anatomy. They’re not simply an over-the-counter-nightguard that you can pick up at a supermarket. Only a trained sleep dentistry provider — like the ones at Raleigh Dental Arts — are available to administer them.
Think You Have Sleep Apnea?
Schedule an exam with our Raleigh sleep dentistry team to get screened. We’ll walk you through the exam to discuss signs and symptoms of sleeping disorders to determine if you’re at risk for OSA. In most cases, you can administer your own take-home sleep study and avoid an overnight stay in a sleep lab. This small bedside machine records your vitals and sleep patterns so that a medical expert can read the data and make a proper diagnosis. If you have OSA, we can proceed with fitting you with a medical device.
Although sleep mouthguards are prescribed like medication — and technically a piece of medical equipment — they must be designed, fitted, and delivered by a licensed dentist since they involve your teeth.
Best of all, getting an oral sleep device might even be covered by your medical insurance. Be sure to have a copy of all applicable insurance cards once it’s time to request an exam.
Book an Appointment Today
A better, healthier night of sleep could be just a phone call away. If you or your family member is exhibiting symptoms of sleep apnea or chronic snoring, contact Raleigh Dental Arts. We’ll be happy to answer any questions that you may have. Should a dental appliance be the best thing for your sleeping condition, the impacts go far beyond your smile; your entire body will reap the benefits of improved sleep.
Call us today to get started!