You may not think of your dentist as the first person to go to for sleep apnea treatment, but did you know that dentists can play a role in diagnosing and treating this condition? There is a strong relationship between dentistry and sleep apnea. Let's take a closer look at what that relationship is and how the professionals at Swansboro Family Dentistry can help improve people's lives with sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
To start, let's clarify what sleep apnea is. It's a condition that causes you to stop breathing at night, sometimes for up to several minutes. These pauses in your breathing are called "apneas." They can happen as often as 30 times or more an hour. People who have sleep apnea may not be aware they're having these episodes because when this happens, there isn't any pause in their brain wave activity, so it doesn't disrupt their slumber the way someone gasping for breath would during wakefulness.
Signs of Sleep Apnea
One of the tricky things about sleep apnea is that people often don't know they have it. The signs and symptoms can be subtle or even absent altogether. That's why it's essential to be aware of what to look for if you think you might have this condition. The most common sleep apnea symptoms are snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty staying asleep, restless sleep, headaches in the morning, and a dry mouth or sore throat when you wake up.
But keep in mind that not everyone who has these symptoms necessarily has sleep apnea. In addition, other conditions can cause similar problems, so it's best to talk with your doctor if you're concerned about any of these issues.
How Dentistry Can Help with Sleep Apnea
Now that we know more about sleep apnea, let's look at how dentistry can help. One of the ways dentists can help is by diagnosing the condition. In some cases, sleep apnea may be caused by your jaw or mouth structure problems. Dentists are experts at identifying these issues and recommend treatment options to help improve your symptoms.
Another way dentists can help is by providing treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. This type of sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction in your airway, usually from enlarged tonsils or adenoids, obesity, or even something as simple as poor sleeping habits. Several treatments for obstructive sleep apnea are available, including lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, and surgery.
Dentists can also help people who have central sleep apnea. This type of sleep apnea is caused by a problem with the brain's ability to control breathing. There is no definitive treatment for central sleep apnea, but dentists may be able to recommend treatments that can help improve your symptoms.
The Dangers of Untreated Sleep Apnea
As you can see, there are many benefits to having your dentist play a role in diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. But it's important to remember that untreated sleep apnea has its dangers as well. One of the biggest concerns is an increased risk for heart disease and stroke because people with this condition often aren't getting enough oxygen during their slumber.
Untreated obstructive sleep apnea also puts people at risk for diabetes mellitus - which can lead to obesity - and high blood pressure, not to mention accidents while driving or operating machinery if someone falls asleep while behind the wheel or working on some dangerous equipment. These risks are why it's so essential that dentists work together with other healthcare providers when caring for patients with sleep apnea.
Hopefully, this article has helped you better understand the relationship between dentistry and sleep apnea. If you think you might have this condition, please talk to us here at Swansboro Family Dentistry about getting tested. Getting a diagnosis and starting treatment can help improve your quality of life in many ways. So call us today at 910-421-3022 to schedule an appointment!