Sleep apnea can have a negative effect on various aspects of a person's health and quality of life, but how serious can it become? Today, our Delta dentists talk about how your body responds to sleep apnea and when it might become life-threatening.
What is sleep apnea and how does it happen?
When you suffer from sleep apnea, you may sleep a full night but feel as though you haven't slept at all. In the cases that are more extreme, patients can be noted to stop breathing as many as 30 times throughout the entire night.
While there is more than one type of sleep apnea, the most common form of sleep apnea is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA occurs due to a physical blockage of the airway while sleeping. One of the most common signs of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring in the patient. Some of the other common signs of sleep apnea include feeling excessively tired during the day, abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking a dry mouth or sore throat in the mornings, and morning headaches.
Sleep apnea not only affects how rested you feel, but it can also have a more widespread effect on your entire body and health.
What is the effect of sleep apnea on your overall health?
Sleep apnea has the ability to cause a variety of oral health concerns. When a patient experiences sleep apnea breathing through their mouth all night will cause the symptom of dry mouth. This can cause bad breath and increased plaque build-up and put patients at a higher risk for gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease.
Sleep apnea can also cause:
- Teeth grinding (which may cause wear and breakage)
- Worn tooth surfaces
- Increased cavities
- Mouth sores
- Tongue with scalloped edges
What are some of the more severe side effects of sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is known to affect the oxygen levels of the patients experiencing the symptoms. When this happens, your body instinctively becomes stressed and can react by increasing your heart rate and narrowing your arteries. This can lead to a number of cardiac complications including high blood pressure, a higher heart rate, and increased inflammation and heart stress.
Some of the serious conditions that could result from sleep apnea are:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
Because of the ability of sleep apnea to cause these other serious conditions, it is very important that you contact your dentist immediately if you notice any of the signs. By contacting your dentist as soon as possible you can receive the appropriate testing and diagnosis quickly to begin managing the effects as early as possible.
How can sleep apnea be managed?
Dentists are unable to diagnose the condition of sleep apnea, however, they are often the first healthcare professionals to notice the condition due to the effect that this condition typically has on your oral health.
If your dentist notices any of the common signs of sleep apnea during your routine dental visit, they will recommend your visit your doctor for an examination and diagnosis.
Some dental offices also provide dental appliances that can be used to help keep your airway open while you sleep and alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea.