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  • Writer's pictureBarbara McClatchie, DDS

Is Your Airway Affecting Your Sleep and Oral Health?

Is Your Airway Affecting Your Sleep and Oral Health?

Did you know in 2022, approximately 30 million Americans had sleep apnea; however, only 6 million were diagnosed (American Medical Association, 2022)?

March is Sleep Apnea Awareness Month. Sleep apnea can increase bacterial growth and form plaque, placing you at risk of periodontal disease (a severe gum infection), cardiovascular disease, and much more. It is important to understand the signs of this sleep disorder to reduce your risk of chronic inflammatory diseases.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which you experience numerous breathing disruptions while sleeping, There are three types of sleep apnea: central, obstructive, and complex. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. Some symptoms of this condition entail excessive sleepiness, snoring, irritability, daytime drowsiness, weight gain, and more.

Increased neck size and changes in craniofacial structures (bones of the skull and face) are some of the primary risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea. Studies have revealed those with a larger volume of the tongue, lateral pharyngeal walls (side walls of the throat) and total soft tissue (connects, supports, and surrounds the organs in the body) are more at risk for sleep apnea. Enlargement of the upper airway of soft tissue structures is one method to reduce the risk of sleep apnea.

Some of the oral signs of sleep apnea include:

  • Bruxism–excessive grinding of the teeth or clenching of the jaw

  • Scalloped or large tongue

  • Enlarged uvula

  • Worn, chipped, or cracked teeth

  • Narrow palate

  • Dry mouth

How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Your Oral Health?

Poor sleep quality and sleeping with your mouth open can lead to innumerable problems, such as:

  • Dementia

  • Heart attacks

  • Strokes

  • Mouth ulcers

  • Cavities

  • Tooth decay

  • Dry mouth

  • And much more

Who is at Risk?

Although there are some factors that can increase the risk of sleep apnea, anyone may be susceptible. Those who have symptoms of this sleep disorder are often asymptomatic or dismiss the signs. Therefore, most individuals remain undiagnosed.

Age - Although sleep apnea can occur at any point, the risk increases as you get older.

Gender - Sleep apnea is more common in men than in women.

Genetics - This condition can be inherited; however, it can be prevented early.

Heart failure - This can result in fluid build-up in your neck, leading to a blockage in the upper airway.

Oral structures - There are features within the oral cavity that can be evaluated by a dental professional, such as a large tongue, retrusive jaw, enlarged tonsils, and much more.

Lifestyle factors - Smoking and drinking alcohol can increase the risk of sleep apnea. Smoking can cause inflammation in the upper airway, making it more difficult to breathe. On the other hand, alcohol can make the muscles of the mouth and throat relax, closing the airway.

Obesity - This is a common cause of sleep apnea, due to the increased adipose tissue in the neck that can block the airway.

Get Screened for Sleep Apnea in Central Ohio Today!

At the Complete Health Dentistry of Columbus, Ohio, we offer personalized dental care, from complete health dentistry, cosmetic, to restorative dentistry services–including sleep apnea screening! With each and every patient, we discuss your oral health risk factors for these systemic diseases and develop a personalized, proactive, holistic health care plan.

Contact our office today and ask about our at-home sleep screening at (614) 412-0916.


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