Sleep Apnea and Your Oral Health
The National Institutes of Health describes sleep apnea as a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. According to The National Sleep Foundation, an estimated 18 million Americans have sleep apnea.
Those with sleep apnea experience a partially or fully blocked airway due to:
- More-relaxed-than-normal throat or tongue muscles
- Larger tongue and tonsils compared with the opening into your windpipe
- Being overweight, which may result in extra soft fat tissue that can thicken and narrow the wall of the windpipe, making it harder to keep open
- A smaller head and neck, causing a smaller airway size in the mouth and throat area
- Limited ability to keep your throat muscles stiff during sleep – typically associated with the aging process
Those suffering from sleep apnea may experience daytime drowsiness due to diminished sleep quality, which can affect overall quality of life. Common signs of sleep apnea include teeth grinding, a small jaw, a tongue with scalloped edges, or redness in the throat. Waking up with a dry mouth, sore throat, or morning headaches are also common signs.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, make sure to bring it up at your next appointment with Dr. Gross. Following a thorough review of your symptoms, she will recommend the most appropriate next steps.
Up next, we will dive deeper into sleep apnea and cover emerging research on sleep apnea prevention and early detection.