During a routine exam, your Marlow dentist may ask you if you have ever woken up in the middle of the night feeling like you can’t catch your breath. They may then ask to do a screening for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
OSA is a disorder where people repeatedly stop breathing during sleep due to collapsed or blocked airways. Dentists screen for sleep apnea because it can cause dry mouth oral inflammation, and several other oral and overall health issues.
Loud snoring is a common symptom for people with obstructive sleep apnea. If the snoring is loud enough to wake a spouse or partner, it is usually an indication of sleep apnea.
What causes sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea has many possible causes and is more common in older men who are overweight. Alcohol use, smoking, and family history may also play a role.
In addition to snoring, some common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Dry mouth
- Daytime exhaustion
While sleep apnea isn’t necessarily hereditary, close relatives of people with the condition have a 50% higher risk of developing the condition. If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, talk to your dentist immediately.
How is sleep apnea treated?
There are several approaches to treating sleep apnea, but you may have to get tested by a sleep specialist first. Dentists routinely screen for sleep apnea because the condition causes patients to breathe through their mouths.
Mouth breathing can lead to tooth decay and an unhealthy “climate” in the mouth. Here are a few ways that dentists and doctors treat sleep apnea.
- Lifestyle changes
Sometimes, a lifestyle change is all it takes to address sleep apnea. Patients may need to lose weight or elevate their torsos while sleeping. They may also find that they sleep better at night if they drink less alcohol.
Overall, a healthy diet high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables could go a long way toward addressing sleep apnea. Whether it’s a long-term solution depends upon the individual.
- CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure)
A CPAP machine helps people with sleep apnea by increasing airflow to the lungs at night. It is worn over the face while sleeping, and during the day if the patient feels short of breath.
CPAP machines are common but a bit bulky. Newer models make it easier to wear the mask during sleep, but overall they do take some getting used to.
- Oral appliances
Oral appliances are usually made out of plastic and help open airways during sleep. They open the mouth slightly and look similar to the mouthguards that athletes use.
Appliances are custom pieces of equipment that are designed to make sleeping more comfortable. Patients who use them should use them consistently for best results.
- Healing or managing underlying illnesses
Unfortunately, sleep apnea is sometimes a sign of deeper illness. Upon examination, it may be a symptom of heart disease or digestive malfunction. Patients with acid reflux or bowel disorders should speak with their dentist about the full range of their symptoms.
Any imbalance or infection in the mouth will affect the entire body. Talk to your dentist about your (or your spouse’s) snoring habits for more information about treating sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Test in Duncan, OK
If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, we can help.
Dr. Matthew L. Bridges has been serving the Greater Duncan, OK area for decades. Call us at (580) 255-4880 to schedule an initial consultation. We look forward to meeting you!