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  • Writer's pictureDrA Persky/Dr.S Battaglin

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Oral Health: What You Need to Know

 

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. While often associated with fatigue and cardiovascular issues, many are unaware of its profound impact on oral health. Here's a comprehensive look at the connection between sleep apnea and oral health, along with the crucial role dentists play in its diagnosis and treatment.

 

How Sleep Apnea Affects Oral Health

Dry Mouth: Sleep apnea often leads to dry mouth due to decreased saliva production, increasing the risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and oral infections [6].

Bruxism (Teeth Grinding): Many sleep apnea patients experience bruxism, which can result in worn-down teeth, jaw pain, and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) [6].

Gum Disease: The intermittent hypoxia experienced during sleep apnea episodes can trigger inflammation, contributing to periodontal disease [1].

Oral Anatomy Changes: Chronic snoring and mouth breathing associated with sleep apnea can lead to changes in oral anatomy, potentially altering dental occlusion and exacerbating existing dental issues [5].

 

The Role of Dentists

Diagnosis: Dentists are often the first to recognize signs of sleep apnea during routine dental exams, such as teeth grinding, scalloped tongue, and enlarged tonsils [3].

Treatment: Custom oral appliances, such as mandibular advancement devices (MADs) or tongue-retaining devices (TRDs), are commonly prescribed by dentists to alleviate sleep apnea symptoms and improve oral health [4].

Collaboration: Dentists collaborate with sleep specialists and physicians to ensure comprehensive care, providing a multidisciplinary approach to managing sleep apnea [3].

 

In conclusion, understanding the profound link between sleep apnea and oral health is essential for both patients and healthcare providers. Dentists play a crucial role in recognizing, treating, and managing sleep apnea, ultimately contributing to improved overall health and well-being.

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