Do I Have Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea may be considered a common ailment on TV and in ads, but it is a serious health condition, where the patient stops breathing for a short amount of time during sleep.
If you or a loved one believes you have symptoms of sleep apnea, call us today. As your San Jose family dentist, we have the unique skills and attention to detail in treating dental health related problems to ensure a better rested body and promote overall health.
Knowing the Signs
Sleep apnea symptoms come in many forms. Ask yourself if you experience one or more of the following signals that you may have sleep apnea:
- You struggle to breathe in your sleep
- You awake frequently during the night
- You’ve been told you snore or gasp awake
- You’ve been told you sometimes stop breathing during sleep
Adults with sleep apnea may find themselves waking up, tossing and turning and possibly having the need to urinate and will not allow them to get a good night sleep. Because the body does not enter a deep sleep, it does not halt signals running through the body, such as the need to urinate.
How Does Sleep Apnea Work?
Sleep apnea can work in different ways, depending on the cause. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to signal the respiratory muscles to keep breathing during sleep. Much more common is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is caused by the airway becoming physically blocked. Typically, the tongue collapses against the soft palate, which in turn collapses against the throat, sealing off the airway. Complex sleep apnea combines OSA and central sleep apnea.
Whatever the cause of the interrupted breathing, the outcome is the same. Not breathing sets off all the brain’s alarm bells, waking the person up to take a breath. It happens so quickly that most people with sleep apnea never remember waking up, even if they’re waking up hundreds of times in a single night. They still feel the effects of not getting a full night’s sleep, however, through symptoms like exhaustion, morning headaches, and difficulty concentrating.
What Does Sleep Apnea Have to Do With Teeth?
In addition to the short-term and long-term effects of sleep deprivation, people with OSA tend to be more vulnerable to developing moderate to severe periodontitis, and they’re also more likely to have trouble with their jaw joints.
Studies have shown that the jaw tends to reflexively clench during a sleep apnea episode to try to keep the airway open. All that strain can result in temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD), which have symptoms like pain when chewing, chronic headaches, damage to the teeth, and neck and shoulder pain.
Why Is Sleep Apnea Serious?
Breathing is essential to life: when we struggle to breathe in our sleep, we can’t rest well at night, we struggle to stay awake in the daytime, we often experience higher blood pressure, and we face increased risks for poor cardiovascular health, such as increased risks for heart attack and stroke.
Sleep Apnea And Heart Health
According to a study performed by Harvard Medical School regarding 1,500 Spanish snorers, after 10 years of observation, about 1 in 7 men who regularly snored had suffered a heart attack or stroke, had required a bypass or clogged heart artery procedure, or had suffered death due to cardiovascular disease. In cases where men had severe untreated sleep apnea, they were three times more likely to suffer cardiovascular trouble as men with treated sleep apnea.
Dental Professionals Can Help
The reason dentists are often the first health providers to recognize the signs of sleep apnea and diagnose it is that dental health effects are a common complication. (Just one of many reasons why regular dental appointments are so important, not just for oral health but overall health.) Treatment for sleep apnea typically involves continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines or nighttime dental devices that push the lower jaw or the tongue forward.
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What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs when your body struggles to keep breathing rhythmically during the night because of pressure, mixed body signals, or physical blockage of your airways due to the following conditions:
- If you have over-relaxed throat muscles and tongue
- If you have a large tongue and tonsils relative to the size of your windpipe
- If you are overweight, which may thicken the wall of the windpipe
- If you are physiologically disposed to having a smaller airway size in the throat and mouth
- If aging has limited the ability for your brain cells to signal proper functions of the throat muscles during sleep.
A regular physician may not detect dental health conditions such as sleep apnea, snoring, TMJ disorders or chronic jaw pain. To best recover your health, you’ll want to feel confident with a proper professional assessment. If you can’t sleep at night, give your family dentist a call at (760) 744-0804 to schedule a sleep apnea consultation.
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