A Dentist’s Role in the Treatment of Sleep Apnea


Living with sleep apnea can be a miserable experience. Few things are as important to a person’s health as a good night’s sleep. Restful sleep helps refresh the mind and restore the body, ensuring individuals have the energy and focus to power through the next day.

Unfortunately, millions of people experience symptoms of sleep apnea, which makes it difficult for them to sleep properly

What is sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition in which a person stops breathing for about 10 seconds or longer while sleeping. These repeated breathing interruptions can occur 30 or more times in an hour. Gasping for breath can cause the patient to wake up several times during the night, which diminishes the quality of their sleep. Sleep apnea may also increase a patient’s risk of suffering from diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Some of the reasons why these breathing pauses happen include:

  • The tongue is too large
  • The muscles in the back of the patient’s throat are flaccid
  • The patient’s jaw is too small

Symptoms of sleep apnea

The most common indicator of sleep apnea is chronic snoring due to airway obstruction. Other symptoms include daytime drowsiness and morning headaches.

However, not all sleep apnea symptoms are as obvious or audible as snoring. This is where a qualified dentist comes in. A dentist can examine a patient’s mouth, teeth, jaw and throat to determine if there are any obstructions in the person's airways.

One of the signs a dentist looks out for is teeth grinding, or bruxism. People who suffer from sleep apnea may have tooth surfaces that are worn out, which is a sign that they grind their teeth a lot. This can result in breakage or even inflamed and receding gums. A sudden spike in cavities is also a sign of bruxism, as the force exerts a great deal of pressure on teeth, damaging them and making them more susceptible to bacteria that cause cavities.

The dentist may also look for redness in the throat as a result of constant snoring. Other symptoms include a small jaw, dry mouth due to open mouth breathing and a tongue that has scalloped edges.

Treatment of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea can be a very silent condition, as most patients do not remember waking up constantly during the night. However, a qualified dentist can help manage sleep apnea with the help of dental appliances and behavioral modification.

When a dentist suspects that a patient suffers from sleep apnea, they may recommend a sleep study conducted by a medical doctor. If the doctor makes an official diagnosis, the dentist may recommend a dental appliance for sleep apnea. This appliance resembles an athletic mouth guard and helps reposition the tongue and jaw for better airflow.

If the sleep apnea is severe, the patient may need to get a continuous positive airway pressure system (CPAC), which helps deliver air through a small mask and applies pressure to keep the airway open.

The dentist may also help treat other dental problems that lead to sleep apnea. If the bruxism associated with sleep apnea has caused periodontal issues and chipped teeth, the dentist can help treat these issues.

Do you have any of the symptoms of sleep apnea? Contact one of our dentists so they can examine your teeth, mouth, throat, and jaw and recommend treatment options that will help you sleep better.

How can you really use this information?

Request a dental appointment here: https://brimhalldentalgroup.com or call Brimhall Dental Group at (661) 249-1122 for an appointment in our Bakersfield dental office.

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