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What do Snoring and Sleep Apnea Have to Do with Oral Health?

Has your dentist ever asked you whether you snore? If so, you might have thought it was a pretty weird question for them to be asking! Snoring is pretty common, after all, especially in adults. According to a recent survey, about 40 percent of men and 24 percent of women snore regularly. Sleep apnea affects about 25 million American adults, and that number is increasing. 

The reason we ask about snoring is because sleep breathing disorders like sleep apnea can cause a lot of potential health problems like cardiovascular and respiratory issues, diabetes, strokes, depression, a decreased immune system, and even dental disease.

The Link Between Snoring and Dental Disease

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Snoring causes a person to breath through their mouth, which leads to dry mouth. Dry mouth can cause plaque, mouth sores, gingivitis, periodontal disease, and tooth decay. There’s also a lot of evidence to suggest that sleep apnea can cause temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. A 2013 study showed that people who had two or more sleep apnea symptoms had a 73% higher risk for a TMJ disorder.

So, why are dentists the ones who are taking on this issue and not your primary care doctor, for example? Well, your primary care doctor will probably be the one who diagnoses you with a sleep disorder like sleep apnea. They’ll let you know if you should be using a CPAP machine or if oral appliance therapy would be a good option for you. If an oral appliance therapy is the way to go, your dentist will help you find the best one.

Oral Appliance Therapy, Explained

The CPAP machine is still the most common treatment for sleep apnea, but if your case is more mild, your doctor might recommend oral appliance therapy instead. Currently, there are more than 100 FDA-approved oral appliances, and your dentist can help you find the best one for your situation and lifestyle.

These oral appliances are worn like a retainer, and they’re custom fitted to your teeth and mouth by your dentist. Because they’re custom made for you, they’re pretty comfortable to wear. You might even forget you’re wearing one! 

It’s primary function is to support the jaw and push it slightly forward to help open your airway. This prevents snoring and breathing issues while you sleep.The good news is that most medical insurance plans cover oral appliances! Your dentist should be able to help you determine if it’s covered or if there’s going to be any out-of-pocket expenses.

So, Do You Have Sleep Apnea?

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, don’t wait until your next check-up. Because there are some pretty serious potential health issues associated with sleep apnea, we urge you to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your sleep issues.

If you’re not sure whether your sleep issues are sleep apnea or something else, take a look at this checklist of common sleep apnea symptoms. If you have many of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor:

  • Interrupted breathing
  • Frequent, loud snoring
  • Waking up gasping or choking
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Decreased attention span or focus
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood changes or irritability
  • Dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headaches
  • Waking up often to use the bathroom
  • Decreased libido

If you would like us to set up an appointment to talk about this further, or if you just need to schedule a regular check-up, give the Inspire Dental Wellness office a call at 708-498-3543. We’re open late on Mondays for your convenience! We’re also offering virtual consults if you would rather talk to us over a video call.

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