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Sleep Apnea and your Dentist

Snoring and sleep disturbances are often signs of obstructive sleep apnea, and your dentist is often the earliest diagnostician of these sleep disorders.”

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that 18 million Americans have sleep apnea. The condition causes repeated breathing interruptions throughout the night; the pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur 30 or more times per hour. These pauses happen because the muscles in the back of the throat are flaccid, the tongue is too large, or the jaw is too small, causing airway obstructions.

One of first signs of sleep apnea is often tooth grinding (also called bruxism). Dentists look for worn tooth surfaces, a sign that a patient grinds his or her teeth. Grinding can cause tooth wear and breakage as well as inflamed and receding gums. A spike in cavities can also be a sign of grinding because the force damages teeth, making them susceptible to cavity-causing bacteria. Grinding is just one oral health sign of sleep apnea. A small jaw, tongue with scalloped edges, or redness in the throat (caused by snoring a lot, which is another symptom of sleep apnea) are also signs.

When a dentist thinks someone has sleep apnea, he or she will often recommend a sleep study, the results of that sleep study will be analyzed and proper treatment per patient results will be recommended!

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