Sleep Apnea: How Can This Severe Disorder Impact Your Oral Health?

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Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that not only results in disturbed sleep but causes several oral problems including periodontal disease, dry mouth, bruxism, and diabetes.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontitis is an inflammatory disease that damages gum tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth, eventually causing teeth to loosen and leading to tooth loss. Since people with sleep apnea tend to breathe more with their mouths than their nose, this can have a drying effect on the soft oral tissue, making it more susceptible to inflammation and infection. 

As gum disease advances, it can cause symptoms ranging from bad breath to loose teeth and even gum abscesses. When the infections enter the bloodstream, they can produce a number of health complications such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even respiratory problems.

Dry Mouth

People who have sleep apnea often use CPAP machines and other dental devices that can open their airways by bringing the lower jaw forward. A common side effect of using these devices is experiencing dry mouth symptoms. The saliva in our mouth acts as a barrier to acid buildup. 

It helps to wash away leftover debris and maintains a balance of good and bad bacteria. Dry mouth allows acid and plaque to remain on the teeth for a longer period of time, resulting in enamel erosion. As teeth begin to lose their protective cover, they become more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease. 

Bruxism (Grinding Teeth)

Everyone grinds their teeth once in a while when they are either frustrated, stressed, or anxious. However, if your teeth grinding is loud enough to wake your partner from sleep, it is most likely caused by sleep apnea. Nocturnal teeth grinding over a long period of time can be detrimental to your oral health. It can wear down your teeth more quickly, accelerate enamel loss, and lead to jaw misalignments.

Diabetes

Recent research is associating sleep apnea glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes. Two consequences of sleep apnea that are risk factors for developing insulin resistance are hypoxemia, a decrease in the partial pressure of oxygen in the blood and sleep fragmentation, receptive short interruptions of sleep. 

Due to hypoxemia’s increased oxidative stress, the body produces an excess amount of molecules called reactive oxygen species which can have a detrimental effect on the body’s ability to repair itself and increase the chances of insulin resistance in the process.

Sleep fragmentation is associated with shorter sleep duration and erratic sleep behavior which leads to poor glycemic control and a higher incidence of Type 2 diabetes. Repeated awakenings during the night push the body into a state that ends up increasing one’s appetite, altering the metabolism, and craving more carbohydrates. All these factors make it difficult to control the amount of glucose in the blood and increases the risk of diabetes.

If you discover that upon waking each day, your mouth is dry and your throat is raw, schedule a visit with a sleep apnea specialist so they can run the necessary tests to reach a proper diagnosis and treatment method. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious oral bacterial infections and other dental health issues.

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