Consistently good sleep is an integral part of a healthy and productive lifestyle. While every individual needs a specific amount of sleep that varies slightly from person to person to function properly every day, most American’s do struggle with a general lack of sleep overall. If you make a point to sleep enough hours every night but you still find yourself feeling sleepy throughout the day, a trip to your dentist might be the first step to a life of quality rest. Your dentist is likely to relate some of these common dental issues with sleep apnea.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition where breathing stops intermittently throughout the night during sleep. The causes of and severity of sleep apnea vary case by case. 

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

There are three main causes of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea disorder. The most common of these forms is obstructive sleep apnea that occurs when throat muscles contract, blocking your airway. Central sleep apnea occurs because an area of your brain does not communicate properly to your muscles that control your breathing. This causes breathing to start and stop in your sleep. Complex sleep apnea disorder is most often a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. 

How Can a Dentist Identify Sleep Apnea?

When you are suffering from sleep apnea, a dentist is often the most likely person to first see the signs. As you go through a cycle of not breathing in a sleep apnea episode, your jaw and teeth often tense up causing your teeth to grind. This sends a message to your brain instructing it to wake up so that you can take a breath. The grinded teeth will be noticed by a dentist, and they will likely try and find the root cause of the behavior in order to help you maintain healthy teeth and gums. Grinding your teeth causes permanent damage and leaves you susceptible to cavities caused by bacteria. This means that the earlier a dentist can catch the problem, the faster you can find a solution for your sleep issues and stop further hurting your teeth. 

Your dentist is also likely to notice redness and swelling in your throat which is often caused by snoring due to sleep apnea. Because sleep apnea can often be caused by having a tongue that is too large for your jaw or mouth size, loud snoring is often reported by patients with this condition. 

Why Should You Treat Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea affects several million Americans, many of whom are not seeking treatment for the disorder. Some people only experience mild apnea, while others suffer from a loss of breathing up to 30 times an hour. If your dentist thinks you are suffering from sleep apnea based on the evidence shown on your teeth, consider making an appointment with a sleep specialist. The consequences for a lack of breathing during the night can be severe to deadly in the long term. Cases of heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity have been a result of sleep apnea, so do not hesitate to follow through with your dentist’s recommendation to meet with a specialist.