Did you know that dentists are often the first health professionals to spot signs of sleep apnea? If during your routine dental exam your Surrey dentist sees signs of sleep apnea, they will let you know so you can make an appointment with your physician.
If you regularly wake up feeling exhausted even after sleeping all night, you may be experiencing sleep apnea. Dentists are often the first to notice signs of this serious sleep disorder because of the effect it has on your teeth.
When an individual suffers from sleep apnea, their breathing will be repeatedly interrupted while they sleep. These pauses can be caused by a lack of respiratory effort, physical blockage of airflow, or a combination of both. Pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes and may occur 30 or more times per hour.
Signs of Sleep Apnea Your Dentist May Notice
Sleep apnea can have an effect on your oral health. Here are some signs of the condition your dentist may notice:
- Receding or inflamed gums
- Tongue with scalloped edges
- Worn tooth surfaces
- Teeth grinding (bruxism), which may cause wear and breakage
- Spike in cavities due to damage to teeth as a result of grinding
- Redness in the throat (caused by excessive snoring)
The most common form of sleep apnea is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA is caused by a physical blockage of airflow when sleeping. Common symptoms of OSA include choking or gasping while attempting to sleep, waking frequently during the night, night sweats, morning headaches, loud snoring, high blood pressure, and dry mouth when waking.
As you might imagine, these symptoms can cause the quality of a patient's sleep to deteriorate leaving them feeling fatigued throughout the day. Sleep apnea is also linked to a greater risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
How can my dentist help?
Dentists cannot diagnose sleep apnea. However, they are often some of the first people who can spot symptoms or let you know if you have an increased risk of developing the condition since your jaw and related structures can contribute to OSA.
Your dentist can conduct a dental exam and take X-rays of your neck and mouth, which might reveal abnormally large tissues in the throat or other blockage in the airway. If they notice any physical blockages they will recommend you visit your doctor.