Many people have breathing issues at night that can range from a mild snore to a more dangerous condition called obstructive sleep apnea.

Snoring can affect anyone, but it is more frequent in men and in overweight individuals, and has a tendency to worsen as we age.  When the flow of air through the mouth and nose is partially obstructed, we have snoring, but total stoppage or obstruction results in apnea, which is classified as a sleep disorder and is more dangerous.

OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) not only can affect your quality of sleep, but can affect the release of stress hormones, your body’s use of energy, and can cause extreme exhaustion, which in itself will trigger other negative effects such work performance, memory, weight gain and mood.

Sleep Apnea and Dental Care

So how do we get on the topic of Sleep Apnea on a dental blog?  Simple…most dentists are familiar with OSA due to the impact on your mouth and oral care.

There is a known association between OSA and periodontal disease (gum disease), but the most common dental health complications are Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMJ / TMD.  Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which are in front of each ear.  TMD is the actual disorder, in which there are issues with the jaw and the facial muscles that control movements for speaking or chewing.

Studies have shown that the jaw, as reflex, clenches to prevent the airway from becoming blocked when the throat relaxes during an episode of sleep apnea.  TMD also leads to other dental problems such as broken or cracked teeth, sensitivity or pain when eating, and severe headaches or neck & shoulder pain.

Regular Visits to your Dentist

With regularly scheduled appointments, your dentist may begin to notice the signs/symptoms before the issue becomes serious, and a sleep study may be recommended as the next step to confirm the diagnosis.  It’s important to see your dentist as scheduled, and to speak openly about any issues you may have with grinding teeth, snoring or overall sleep.