Snoring and sleep apnoea- how your dentist can help
Snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) during sleep are signs that there is an interruption to the smooth flow of oxygen into and out of your airways. When snoring, air flows over and past the relaxed structures of the throat, causing the tissues to vibrate. Obstructive sleep apnoea happens when the walls of the throat come together during sleep, blocking the passage of oxygen to the lungs. With OSA the brain will signal that it is not receiving sufficient oxygen, this causes the person to wake up and start to breathe normally again. Sleep apnoea causes increases in the risk of heart attack, stroke and other health issues.
I think I snore…
Booking an appointment with your dentist can help to identify the cause for breathing problems when you’re sleeping. A correct diagnosis may require an overnight sleep study to observe and measure your sleep, breathing and oxygen levels. While not all people who snore will have sleep apnoea, it’s important to rule this out as a possibility due to its impact on other areas of your health.
Sleep apnoea symptoms
A common symptom of OSA is exhaustion because of the repeated interruption to sleep from waking throughout the night. Many people don’t realise they have sleep apnoea until their partner complains of their own sleep being disturbed. Snoring and sleep apnoea can have a larger impact on you than just a poor night’s sleep including impacting the health of your teeth and gums. A dental examination can detect signs of damage to your oral health such as tooth grinding (bruxism) and Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome, which causes jaw pain. Other symptoms of OSA you should be aware of can include waking up in the morning with a headache and sore throat.
Tooth sensitivity and worn or damaged teeth can also be signs of sleep apnoea which your dentist will notice in an examination. Dry mouth can also be a common symptom because of the tendency to mouth breathe. Saliva plays an important protective role against cavities forming and washing away food particles, increasing the risk of tooth decay for people who snore and have OSA. Be sure to mention this symptom to your dentist when you visit them.
How can my dentist help with my snoring or sleep apnoea?
Your dentist may refer you for a sleep study in combination with your GP and if needed, review by an ear, nose and throat specialist to confirm the diagnosis. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight, cutting back on alcohol, stopping smoking and changes in sleeping position can be helpful, though only to a point. If snoring or sleep apnoea is due to structural causes such as a narrowed airway or nasal congestion, specific treatments may be necessary. Sometimes an oral appliance is recommended to help keep the airway open. This is worn like an orthodontic retainer in the mouth and helps to push the jaw forward and keep the tongue in a normal position. This combination helps to keep the airway open so there is no compromise to the flow of oxygen. Another option is to use a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airways Pressure) machine to deliver pressurised air continuously which keeps the airways open.
See your dentist if you think you are snoring or are experiencing the symptoms mentioned for sleep apnoea. Taking the next steps towards improving your sleep, oral health and overall health may be as simple as a visit to the dentist. Book an appointment today.