Although comic relief is a common tactic used to help oneself or another person be less embarrassed by their snoring, loud, persistent snoring can be a sign of a serious sleep disorder known as sleep apnea. This condition causes a person’s breathing to stop and start repeatedly while they sleep. This means that their brain, as well as the rest of their body, is not getting sufficient oxygen. These intermittent pauses in breathing can occur hundreds of times a night without a person even knowing it. They only know that their daytime energy level and mental sharpness aren’t quite up to par. What most people also don’t know about sleep apnea is that it is often due to an oral health issue. The team at Weissman Dental understands the risks associated with this sleep disorder and are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating it.
Signs of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of this sleep disorder. The repetitive breathing interruptions associated with sleep apnea can last a few seconds or several minutes at a time and usually cause loud snoring, as well as gasping for breath. These pauses occur due to several causes, including the tongue being too large, the muscles in the throat being flaccid, and/or the jaw being too small. Any of these conditions can cause airway obstructions. One of the first signs of sleep apnea is worn surfaces of the teeth due to teeth grinding, also known as bruxism. If a patient is having sleep difficulties, we will look for worn tooth surfaces. Another indicator of teeth grinding is a sudden rise in cavities in a patient because bruxism can damage teeth severely, making them more susceptible to decay.
Health Effects of Sleep Apnea
While a patient who snores loudly may be inclined to joke about their snoring, it’s an issue that shouldn’t be ignored. The prolonged sleep deprivation related to sleep apnea can cause daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, and slow reflexes. All of these short-term effects of sleep apnea can put patients at a greater risk of accidents. In addition, sleep apnea can lead to irritability, mood swings, and even depression. Sleep apnea can also contribute to serious health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and liver problems. Even if you have been diagnosed with and are being treated for sleep apnea, you can still feel extremely tired during the day. This could be a sign of a real medical condition known as Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS).
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Treatment for sleep apnea varies from patient to patient, but often involves wearing a mouthguard or other device to help manage snoring. This is known as oral appliance therapy, which falls under a dental specialization known as dental sleep medicine. This area of expertise involves collaboration between clinicians, doctors, and dentists to find the best treatment solutions for sleep disorders that affect oral health.
If you’re struggling with loud snoring and sleeplessness, Weissman Dental is here to help. Give our office a call at (503) 274-2222 with any questions or to schedule an appointment.