Many factors have the potential to negatively impact our sleep. However, it may surprise you to find out that one of them is your teeth! There are proven links between sleep and teeth and gums, so taking proactive steps with your mouth health might be just the thing to improve your quality of sleep.
Your sleep can be affected by your mouth, teeth and gums in several ways. Night teeth grinding (bruxism), snoring and sleep apnea may be improved by addressing some of the issues inside your mouth. Read on to find out what an experienced dentist has to say about the importance of sleep and its link to oral health.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea (also spelled apnoea) is characterised by pauses in your breathing as you sleep, which can last for a few seconds or go on for minutes, which is extremely dangerous. Sleep apnea is often accompanied by loud snoring noises, which is the byproduct of the brain reacting to a lack of oxygen and rousing the body through instigating snorting or choking sounds. Having sleep apnea means significantly interrupted sleep patterns, which can lead to an increased risk of lifestyle illnesses.
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by the airways being fully or partially obstructed. Breathing should be an easy and almost silent process, but this is only possible with clear airways. Blocked or semi-blocked airways, mean that significantly less oxygen is being delivered to your lungs, which means they are being strained, along with your heart, which puts a strain on the whole body. This not only affects your sleep but your overall health as well.
Sleep apnea is a very serious condition if left untreated. If you suspect you might have it please see a medical professional as soon as possible. It is also important to note that not all snoring is related to sleep apnea.
A solution is at hand (and in your mouth)
Research has shown that dentists might be able to detect and help patients with sleep apnea. If you are suffering from sleep apnea or snoring has become an issue for you (or your bed partner,) speak to your dentist about how they can help.
Your dentist will thoroughly examine your mouth, teeth, tongue, jaw, and gums and might refer you to a sleep physician to conduct a sleep study, if you haven’t had one already.
Once sleep apnea is diagnosed it is often treated with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). This device includes an air pump and mask which will help you to breathe continuously while you sleep. The CPAP’s pump takes air in, pressurises it, and then sends it through a tube and mask to the throat via the nose and mouth.
Sometimes snoring is treated with a mandibular advancement device. These are made of upper and lower linking plates (similar to a mouthguard) for wearing while you sleep. By adjusting the angle and position of your lower jaw, they allow your airway to remain open while you sleep. Some initial side-effects include jaw pain or toothache, but these typically disappear after a few days. They are easy to clean with a toothbrush and toothpaste and can last for up to five years. They can even be used by people with dentures.
It may take a while for you to adjust to sleeping with a CPAP on your face, or to having a mandibular advancement device in your mouth. But, through regular dental check-ups, you’ll be able to determine if the specific device is doing its job, and providing you with better, deeper sleep.
If they’re working, and for the most part they do, they’ll be able to provide you with a good night’s sleep, without sporadic breathing interruptions, snoring and snorting. This won’t only be good for your health, but it will also be appreciated by people around you who are trying to sleep.
Please note: This article is not to be used as medical advice. If you have any questions about your sleep health, speak to your doctor or dentist. This post may contain affiliate links.
Dr Gautam Herle
Dr Herle is the principal dentist at Myers Street Dental Clinic in Geelong, Victoria. He loves it when patients understand what is happening in their mouth. Dr Herle is on the cutting edge of technology, and will soon be one of only 12 dentists in Australia to have achieved a Masters in Laser Dentistry. Find out more about Dr Gautam Herle here.