An Overview of Sleep Dentistry: The Relationship Between Sleep and Dental Care
Why a Dentist Might Be the First One To Notice Sleep Issues
It is not unusual for people to be surprised when they hear that their dentist might be the first person to diagnose sleep issues. Dentists are responsible for screening for a lot of oral health issues, and there are issues related to your oral health that can impact your sleep. Some of the most common examples include:
- Mouth Breathing: Your dentist may notice that you are breathing through your mouth, which can be a sign that you are having a difficult time breathing when you go to sleep at night.
- Teeth Grinding: Your dentist may notice that you are grinding your teeth. If that is the case, you might be grinding your teeth in the middle of the night, which might be why you wake up in the morning with a headache.
- Sleep Apnea: Your dentist may also notice other signs related to potential sleep apnea. For example, there could be a problem with your tongue positioning, which might make it more likely for you to have breathing difficulties at night.
In some cases, your dentist might be able to solve these issues without calling anybody else.
In other cases, your dentist might need to reach out to a medical professional who can help you. Regardless, if your dentist diagnoses sleep issues early, you can get the treatment process started faster. This could make a significant difference in your overall prognosis.
The Top Signs of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is one of the most common issues that a dental sleep medicine specialist might address. This is a condition that causes you to stop breathing in the middle of the night. Then, your brain will send a signal to the rest of the body, causing it to wake up.
If you wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air, it might be because you suffer from sleep apnea. One of the most common types of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea. This means that there is a physical obstruction that makes it difficult for you to breathe when you go to sleep at night. Your oxygen level begins to drop, your brain is deprived of its most important nutrient, and you wake up gasping for air to fix your low oxygen levels.
There are a few risk factors that could make it more likely for you to be diagnosed with sleep apnea. They include:
- A relatively small jaw that makes it difficult for you to take a deep breath
- A tongue that is overly large, which could block your airway when you go to sleep at night
- Obesity, which could cause extra tissue to press down on your trachea, making it harder for you to breathe
- A family history significant for multiple relatives who also suffer from sleep apnea
It is not unusual for physicians and dentists to work hand-in-hand a treat someone who suffers from sleep apnea. If your dentist begins to ask you about the quality of your sleep habits, make sure you are honest about them. Some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Feeling extremely tired during the day
- Snoring loudly at night
- Waking up in the middle of the night gasping for air
- Problems concentrating during the day
- Waking up with a very dry mouth or throat
There are multiple treatment options available for sleep apnea, and your dentist might be able to use an oral appliance that can help you reposition your tongue or jaw. Then, you might have an easier time sleeping at night.
Treatment Options for Bruxism
Another comment sleep issue that a dentist can address is called bruxism. This is the technical term used to describe teeth grinding. There are a lot of people who grind their teeth at night. Some of the most common symptoms of bruxism include:
- Waking up in the morning with a severe headache due to stress placed on the facial muscles
- Teeth with enamel that appears to be worn down due to teeth grinding
- A possible earache due to stress in this area
- Waking up in the middle of the night with jaw or facial pain
There are several treatment options available for bruxism, but one of the most common options is to use a mouthguard. Essentially, the dentist will place a pad in between the rows of teeth to prevent you from grinding on them when you go to sleep at night. That way, you can protect your oral health.
Call Mark J. Williamson, DDS for Help With Sleep Issues
Even though you need to go to the dentist for regular cleanings, you should not hesitate to talk to your dentist about potential sleep issues. At Mark J. Williamson, DDS, we have a significant amount of experience dealing with a wide variety of sleep disorders.
We can use dental sleep medicine to help you as well. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment with our team! It would be our pleasure to help you with all aspects of your oral health.