Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects roughly 25 million people nationwide. Characterized by repeated episodes of interrupted breathing, sleep apnea can increase a person’s risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, depression, and other serious health conditions.

While most people are aware that poor sleep can have a negative impact on their overall health and well-being, many are surprised to learn that their sleep disorders may be directly related to their oral health. In fact, it’s not uncommon for dentists to be the earliest diagnosticians of sleep apnea in their patients.

Warning signs of sleep apnea

Because sleep apnea causes people to repeatedly gasp for air during their sleep cycles, it often goes hand-in-hand with sleeplessness. Here’s a list of some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea:

  • Loud snoring
  • Choking or gasping during sleep
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism) and clenching
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Jaw pain/tightness
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Dry mouth (upon waking up)
  • Dull headaches (often affecting the temples)
  • Redness in the throat
  • Irritability

If you’re suffering from some combination of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to visit your dentist, doctor, and/or sleep specialist to discuss your symptoms and determine if a sleep study is necessary.

Sleep apnea risk factors

Factors that increase your risk of developing sleep apnea include the following:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being over 40
  • Being male
  • Being a smoker
  • Having a small jaw
  • Having large tonsils or a large tongue
  • Having nasal or sinus issues
  • Using sedatives, alcohol, or tranquilizers

While these factors make you more likely to develop sleep apnea, it’s important to be aware that anyone can suffer from the condition, including children.

The connection between sleep apnea and oral health

Sleep apnea can affect your oral health in a variety of ways, so it’s important to talk to your dentist if you’ve recently been diagnosed or suspect you may have it.

The dental-specific signs of sleep apnea include dry mouth, tooth grinding (bruxism), and gingivitis. It can also cause temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which can lead to jaw pain, jaw alignment issues, difficulty chewing, clicking or grinding of the joint, and lockjaw. You may also notice redness or soreness in your throat and/or dull headaches.

How to treat sleep apnea in Escondido

Because sleep apnea can cause a variety of serious health issues, dental problems, and symptoms, you’ll want to seek advice from your primary care physician, a trusted dentist, and (if necessary) a sleep specialist.

Treatment may vary from patient to patient, but it typically involves some combination of the following:

  • Lifestyle changes (including weight loss and practicing good dental hygiene)
  • CPAP machines
  • CPAP pillows
  • Oral devices/appliances (such as sleep-apnea mouth guards)
  • Oral pressure therapy

Suffering from sleep apnea? The experts at TLC Escondido Dental can help!

At TLC Escondido Dental, we practice compassionate dentistry. Our experienced team can help identify and treat sleep apnea and other dental-related sleep disorders. We strive to empower our patients to make positive choices that will not only improve their oral health, but also their overall well-being.

Ready to develop a treatment plan that works for you? Have questions? Schedule your appointment today or give us a call at (760) 741-5775. We’d be happy to help!