Sleep apnea affects over 25 million adults in the US today, and if you’re one of these, you may already be receiving treatment. Many people, however, may not even know they suffer with the sleep disorder, and this can lead to dangerous health problems down the road if not diagnosed and treated.
Fortunately, dentists specialized in sleep apnea identification and treatment are more common today and are often the first to recognize the disorder in patients and provide treatment options. In other instances, a healthcare provider and dentist can work together to offer solutions and help patients finally get a better night’s rest and improve their health in the process.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Essentially, sleep apnea is the condition of experiencing repetitive breathing interruptions at night during the sleep cycle. This condition exists when something partially or temporarily blocks the upper airway, preventing oxygen from entering in and reaching the lungs as you sleep.
Many factors can cause this interrupted breathing and need addressing sooner rather than later so as to avoid dangerous health issues, including high blood pressure, heart strain, and dips in oxygen levels.
7 Common Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea
Even without a medically supervised sleep study, warning signs abound for those who experience sleep apnea. Here are seven, in particular, to be aware of for you and your loved ones.
1. Excessive Snoring
Excessive, loud snoring is notably the most obvious sign of sleep apnea. If you often wake yourself up at night with your snoring or a bed mate constantly complains about it, you may unknowingly suffer from sleep apnea.
Snoring can be a prime indication that the airway is constricting or being obstructed in some way as you sleep. Enlarged tissue or other factors can cause this.
2. Gasping for Air
You may also be experiencing the stopping and restarting of breath during the night and even struggle to gasp for air on occasion.
Each breathing interruption episode can last as little as a few seconds to several minutes long. During these episodes, you may struggle to breathe, gasping for air and making choking noises.
Once again, your bed mate will often be the one to discover this, or it may be recognized during a sleep study.
3. Grinding of Teeth or Clenching of Jaw During the Night
When an individual experiences sleep apnea and the airway is blocked, the natural physical reaction is the clenching of the jaws and grinding of teeth. This reaction is the natural response to oxygen deprivation in the brain and body and not something you choose to do voluntarily.
While you may not realize this clenching and grinding are occurring, you will show signs which are often identifiable by your dental team.
During a dental exam where broken, cracked, worn, or flat teeth or dental restorations appear, your dentist may suspect and diagnose bruxism, which is the chronic grinding of teeth and jaw clenching at night as you sleep.
Often jaw pain and frequent headaches accompany these dental issues, serving as more warning signs that sleep apnea is to blame. Patients often experience TMJ disorders as well.
If you know you are experiencing any of these, talk with your dentist and discuss potential causes and treatments.
4. Dry Mouth Upon Awakening
Sleep apnea will cause a patient to breathe more through the mouth instead of the nose, often leaving them with a dry mouth upon waking.
Talk with your dentist if you find yourself waking with a dry mouth most mornings. This dry mouth can lead to tooth decay, as well as gum inflammation, periodontal disease, and mouth sores.
If you always feel unrested upon waking in the mornings, you may not be getting a good night’s sleep, and this sleep disorder may be directly affecting you.
Also, finding yourself constantly feeling fatigued or sleepy throughout the day can be a warning sign of sleep apnea as well. While a few days of this is somewhat normal these days, due to various stressors, it shouldn’t be the case more often than not.
6. Concentration Difficulties
The inability or decrease in the ability to concentrate is often a side effect of sleep apnea. Your brain and body require adequate levels of oxygen to function and stay healthy. When this doesn’t happen, you may experience difficulty concentrating, be easily distracted, and feel as if in a haze of sorts throughout the day.
While you are still getting some sleep, it is not the quality of sleep your brain needs to keep you focused and productive.
The lack of adequate oxygen reaching your brain during the interrupted sleep can lead to increasing concentration difficulties, and this can lead to accidents and other stress-related problems.
7. Memory Issues
While temporarily experiencing forgetfulness can be troubling, when it occurs on a more frequent basis, it becomes a problem. The lack of quality sleep and adequate oxygen to the brain caused by sleep apnea may be the culprit behind it all.
When simple tasks become challenging, consider consulting with your dentist or health care professional and ask about the potential for experiencing sleep apnea, especially if you suffer from any of the other warning signs on this list.
How Dentists Can Help with Sleep Apnea
While your medical doctor is often the first to diagnose sleep apnea, today, dentists play an ever-increasing role in identifying and offering treatment options for those patients suffering with the disorder.
With the use of mouth and dental x-rays, and physical examinations of the throat and mouth, dental problems, tissues, or other blockages to the airway can be identified. From there, your dentist can recommend treatment options in the form of dental corrections, mouth pieces, or other appliances, and refer you to your medical provider for more information and options.
Sleep Apnea Dentistry in Columbus
Dr. Richard Barry and his team understand the complexities and problems surrounding sleep apnea and strive to help you or loved ones find the best solution possible. Whether you need dental corrections or mouth pieces to help relieve airway blockage, the team at Lifetime Dental Health is with you every step of the way. Call us today or contact us online at our website to schedule an appointment and start finding relief from your sleep apnea today.