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Are you having trouble sleeping? Do you wake up feeling more tired than when you went to bed? Does your partner complain about your snoring? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may have sleep apnoea. Your dentist, surprisingly enough, may be the ally you need in tackling sleep disorders!

Get acquainted with the critical role dentists have in identifying and treating sleep apnoea, as well as the different treatment options available.

Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is a serious sleep disorder characterised by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. These interruptions may last several seconds or even reach a number of minutes, and may occur 30 times or more every hour. As a result, the brain, as well as the rest of the body, may not get enough oxygen.

Sleep Apnea

There are three main types of sleep apnoea:

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA): This is the most common form of sleep apnoea. OSA occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite the effort to breathe. This obstruction is generally caused when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and closes during sleep.

Central sleep apnoea (CSA): Unlike OSA, CSA is not caused by a blocked airway. Instead, the brain fails to send the appropriate signals to the muscles that control breathing. This means the individual makes no effort to breathe for short periods.

Complex sleep apnoea syndrome: Also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnoea, this condition is a combination of both OSA and CSA.

Common symptoms of sleep apnoea

Have you noticed any of these sleep apnoea symptoms?

  • Loud snoring (more commonly associated with OSA).
  • Episodes of stopped breathing during sleep (usually reported by another person).
  • Gasping for air during sleep.
  • Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat.
  • Morning headache.
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia).
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia).
  • Difficulty paying attention or irritability.

The role of dentists in sleep apnoea treatment

dental check-up

Dentists play a crucial role in sleep apnoea treatment and management, especially OSA.

Screening and risk assessment: Dentists are often on the front line of sleep apnoea detection. We are in a position to notice signs including worn tooth surfaces, teeth grinding, receding or red gums and scalloped tongue or ridges along the sides of the tongue.

During routine dental exams, we can identify certain risk factors and anatomical features that may suggest a patient has or is at risk for sleep apnoea. Some of these risk factors include obesity, a large neck circumference, a narrow airway and a recessed chin.

A sleep study is a likely first step towards understanding if Sleep Disordered Breathing is relevant for you. It provides a comprehensive analysis of an individual’s sleep patterns, identifying disruptions and determining the severity of sleep disorders like sleep apnoea.

Referrals: If we suspect a more serious diagnosis, we are also able to refer you to a sleep specialist or physician for further evaluation.

Oral appliance therapy: Once sleep apnoea is diagnosed, your dentist can provide a medical device for treatment, in the form of a custom-fitted oral appliance. Dentists are trained to ensureoral appliances are correctly fitted and adjusted for maximum effectiveness and comfort. They monitor your progress and make any necessary adjustments to the device to ensure it continues to provide optimal benefits.

Addressing bruxism: Teeth grinding, or bruxism, often accompanies sleep apnoea. Not only can this lead to dental issues like tooth wear and breakage, but it can also exacerbate the symptoms of OSA. This is an important consideration for your overall dental care.

Monitoring and follow-up care: Your dentist can also provide ongoing care and monitoring as you use oral appliances to treat sleep apnoea. Regular follow-up appointments allow your dentist to assess your response to treatment, the condition of the oral appliance and your oral health in general.

Education and counselling: Your dentist can educate you about the importance of adhering to your treatment plan and the potential health complications associated with untreated sleep apnoea. They can provide guidance and support to help you successfully manage your condition.

Coordination with other healthcare providers: Dentists often work in conjunction with other healthcare providers, including sleep specialists, physicians and ENT specialists, to ensure that patients receive comprehensive and effective treatment for sleep apnoea.

sleep disorder

What happens if sleep apnoea is left untreated?

Ignoring sleep apnoea can lead to serious complications and impact various aspects of your overall health and well-being. Here are some possible consequences:

Increased risk of cardiovascular problems: Sleep apnoea that goes untreated can put undue stress on your heart. The repeated waking episodes that occur with sleep apnoea increase heart rate and blood pressure, leading to a higher chance of heart attack, stroke and irregular heartbeat.

Increased risk of metabolic problems: Untreated sleep apnoea can also lead to various metabolic issues. It is linked to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. The interruption in sleep patterns and lack of oxygen can disturb your body’s regular metabolic functions, leading to these health conditions.

Increased risk of accidents: Due to impaired concentration and daytime sleepiness, untreated sleep apnoea can increase the risk of vehicular and workplace accidents. The fatigue and drowsiness make it challenging for individuals to focus and react promptly, posing a danger to themselves and others.

Increased risk of cognitive problems: Sleep is essential for cognitive functions like memory and concentration. When sleep apnoea is left unaddressed, it can cause cognitive impairments. It affects your mental abilities, leading to issues like memory loss, difficulty concentrating and increased risk of dementia.

Decreased quality of life: Beyond the physical health risks, untreated sleep apnoea can severely diminish your quality of life. The constant fatigue, daytime sleepiness and mood changes can strain relationships, decrease work performance and limit your enjoyment of daily activities.

sleep apnoea prevention

Dealing with sleep apnoea is crucial to discovering the joy and health that comes from a good night’s sleep. Imagine the difference it could make in your life if you woke up refreshed, full of energy, and ready to tackle the day. If you experience or suspect any symptoms, please get in touch. We can help identify signs of sleep apnoea and recommend the most effective treatment for your needs. Early detection and treatment of sleep disorders are essential to prevent more serious health complications.