Sleep apnea can have a negative effect on various aspects of a person's health and quality of life, but how serious can it become? Today, our North Vancouver dentists talk about how your body responds to sleep apnea and when it might become life-threatening.
What is sleep apnea and how does it happen?
Sleep apnea causes you to sleep a full night but feel as if you haven't slept at all. In more severe situations, patients may stop breathing up to 30 times throughout the night.
While there are various varieties of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. OSA is caused by the physical blockage of the airway during sleep. Snoring is one of the most prevalent signs of obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes other common symptoms such as increased daytime weariness, gasping or choking accompanied by rapid awakenings, dry mouth or sore throat in the morning, and morning headaches.
Sleep apnea not only affects how well you sleep, but it can also have a broader impact on your overall health and well-being.
What is the effect of sleep apnea on your overall health?
Sleep apnea can potentially cause a number of dental health issues. Patients with sleep apnea suffer from dry mouth because they breathe through their mouth all night. Poor breath and increased plaque buildup can lead to an increased risk of gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease.
Sleep apnea can also lead to:
- Teeth grinding (which may cause wear and breakage)
- Worn tooth surfaces
- Increased cavities
- Mouth sores
- Tongue with scalloped edges
What are some of the more severe side effects of sleep apnea?
It is well documented that sleep apnea causes low oxygen levels in patients. When this happens, your body increases your heart rate and narrows your arteries. A variety of cardiac issues can result from this, including elevated blood pressure, an accelerated heart rate, inflammation, and heart stress.
Sleep apnea can lead to a variety of dangerous disorders, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
Because of the ability of sleep apnea to cause these other serious conditions, it is very important that you contact your dentist immediately if you notice any of the signs. By contacting your dentist as soon as possible you can receive the appropriate testing and diagnosis quickly to begin managing the effects as early as possible.
How can sleep apnea be managed?
Dentists cannot diagnose sleep apnea, but because of the influence it has on your dental health, they are typically the first healthcare providers to discover the disease.
If your dentist sees any of the usual symptoms of sleep apnea during a routine dental appointment, they will advise you to see your doctor for an evaluation and diagnosis.
Some dentist offices also offer dental appliances to help keep your airway open while you sleep and ease the symptoms of sleep apnea.