Feeling tired? We can often pinpoint the reason: a late night out, disruption of a normal schedule, small children, daylight savings time, and other tangible circumstances. Consistently poor sleep can lead to problems with daytime concentration and other health conditions. If you find yourself feeling tired all the time without any known triggers, it may be time for a visit to the doctor or, surprisingly, the dentist.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Chronic sleepiness and waking up tired can be a strong indicator of sleep apnea, a condition affecting more than 20 million Americans in which breathing is interrupted during sleep. This isn’t an issue of having trouble falling or staying asleep. Rather, sufferers from sleep apnea may be logging their 8 hours every night and not even know that the quality of their sleep is severely compromised. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep disorder stemming from the throat muscles intermittently relaxing and blocking the airway.
The most noticeable (and loudest) sign of this condition is a very distinctive snoring pattern. Deep snores are followed by short periods of not breathing, after which there is a gasp/snore that starts the pattern over again. This cycle can go on as many as a hundred times per night. It’s no wonder that those who suffer don’t get a decent night of sleep.
In adults, excess weight and obesity are common causes. During sleep when the throat and tongue muscles are more relaxed, excess soft tissue can cause the airway to become blocked.
Other warning signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking
- Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headache
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
- Mood changes, such as depression or irritability
- Decreased blood oxygen levels
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Nighttime sweating
- Decreased libido
There’s even evidence that sleep apnea can worsen conditions such as fibromyalgia and trigger conditions that can lead to a stroke.
Why See a Dentist?
These all sound like issues to address with a doctor, so how is the dentist involved? Believe it or not, your dentist may very well be the first one to notice early warning signs of sleep apnea.
Grinding teeth (bruxism) can lead to sleep apnea. While you sleep, tension in the jaw as you grind your teeth signals your brain to wake up and take a breath, thereby breaking your sleep pattern. Your dentist can see the manifestations of teeth grinding through worn tooth surfaces and inflamed or receding gums. A spike in cavities can also be a sign of grinding because the force damages teeth, making them susceptible to bacteria and increased periodontal disease.
Dentists can also notice things like a small jaw, a tongue with scalloped edges, or redness in the throat which may be caused by snoring. If you live alone, there may not be anyone to make you aware of your snoring patterns, so the dentist may be the first one to recognize the problem.
A Path to Relief
The first course of action recommended by doctors and dentists is a sleep study to confirm the diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. While breathing assistance devices such as a CPAP machine are available, they can be costly and cumbersome. A simpler, more cost-effective dental solution exists (oral appliances made to address sleep apnea), and many can find the relief they seek without the use of complicated medical equipment.
Oral appliances fitting much like retainers are often prescribed by dentists for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and snoring. These devices are worn in the mouth only during sleep and are designed to prevent the airway from collapsing by supporting the jaw in a forward position. This leaves the airway open and unobstructed during sleep. Devices are custom-fit by a qualified dentist and can be an effective form of therapy, allowing users to sleep with fewer interruptions and wake up feeling more refreshed and able to lead a more focused and productive day.
Get Help for Sleep Apnea Now
Dr. Mitchmore has advanced training in sleep issues and oral misalignment. He and the staff at LifeSmiles stay at the forefront of dental practices and technology, giving their patients world-class cutting-edge treatment. Oral appliances custom-made to address grinding and airway obstruction are just one of many services they provide from their Montrose office in Houston. Call today for your appointment.