One may wonder how sleep disorders are connected to dental health. Many of our patients are surprised when we ask them if they have disturbed sleep or suffer from sleep apnea. One of the earliest signs of sleep apnea is teeth grinding - which can cause wear and tear of the tooth enamel - which is why your dentist could be one of the first professionals to diagnose your condition (if you weren’t aware already). Your dentist would then recommend you to a clinician who would conduct a sleep study to get a hold over what you could be suffering from. Dental sleep medicine is a rapidly growing field where sleep and other aspects of human health are studies in direct relation to dental health.
Take a look at the different types of sleep-disordered breathing or sleep apnea, their causes, and risks:
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that blocks the airway momentarily (up to 10 seconds), cutting off breathing multiple times while sleeping. The reduction in airflow causes the person to wake up - resulting in disturbed sleep. Leaving obstructive sleep apnea untreated can increase the risk of cognitive impairment, hypertension, decreased quality of life, and cardiovascular diseases.
The causes for obstructive sleep apnea are many - ranging from reduced space in the upper airway, change in control of the muscles in the upper airway, increased neck circumference, abnormal facial structure, obesity, family history, use of alcohol, etc.
Central sleep apnea is a less common type of sleep apnea and occurs when the brain does not transmit signals to the muscles to breathe. As a result of this, no effort is put into breathing, which could wake the person up catching for his or her breath. The shortness of breath can lead to disturbed sleep or lack of sleep.
The causes of central sleep apnea could be heart disorders, stroke, and narcotic pain medications. Possible complications related to sleep apnea include daytime fatigue, liver, sleep-deprived partners, metabolic syndrome, and heart problems.
Complex sleep apnea is a condition wherein obstructive sleep apnea, as well as central sleep apnea, occur together. This condition is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.
The treatment for sleep apnea differs from patient to patient. The use of a dental appliance to ensure the airway stays open, or surgery involving teamwork by medical professionals as well as dental surgeons, could have a positive impact on treating sleep apnea.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, please schedule an appointment online or call us at (408) 377-8200 to consult with our dentist, and we will be happy to assist you further.