Written by: Sarah Kong, DDS (Dallas County Dental Society Member)
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep apnea affects around 20 million adults in the U.S. It is one of the most common sleep disorders, and yet, there is an estimated 80% of undiagnosed cases. A lot of people are unaware that sleep apnea is the underlying cause of their health problems. Others are aware that they have a sleep disorder but are uninformed about how potentially serious untreated sleep apnea can be.
What is Sleep Apnea? Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. The “apnea” in sleep apnea refers to a breathing pause that lasts at least ten seconds. If undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes, increasing your likelihood of heart attack and stroke.
Sleep apnea 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 jaw is too small, the tongue is too large, or the muscles in the back of the throat are flaccid, causing airway obstructions.
Did you know that sleep apnea is often linked to specific dental concerns? Yes, your oral health could be to blame. If a number of the following symptoms describe you, get in touch with your dentist.
- Chronic snoring
- You grind your teeth when you sleep
- You sometimes wake up abruptly with shortness of breath
- You have insomnia (difficulty staying asleep)
- You often wake up with a headache
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- You have risk factors for sleep apnea, such as being overweight or obese, drinking alcohol, or smoking tobacco
- You feel excessively sleepy during daytime
A lot of patients are surprised when their dentist asks them about their quality of sleep. But did you know that a dentist is often the earliest diagnostician of sleep disorders? Get in touch with your dentist to discuss your treatment options today.