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Obstructing Your Sleep: An Overview of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that interrupts a person’s breathing during sleep. People suffering from this may stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, reducing oxygen flow in the entire body. If it is left untreated, sleep disordered breathing may cause several health problems such as high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.

People with sleep apnea may not know they are suffering from the disorder. The first people who will notice the condition are family members. Common symptoms may include loud snoring, inability to breathe properly, dry mouth, sore throat, and headaches.

People suffering from this condition might also be at risk for several oral problems. Sleep apnea may be associated with teeth grinding. When this occurs regularly, teeth grinding may damage the teeth and cause other complications such as jaw muscle discomfort and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Although dentists cannot point the real causes for the condition, they may associate several factors with sleep apnea and teeth grinding, such as stress and anxiety problems.

Some dentists may recommend oral appliances and mouth guards. These orthodontic appliances may fit over the teeth to prevent the upper and lower teeth from grinding against each other. Some dentists may recommend braces and clear aligners if misaligned teeth contribute to the disorder.

Sleep apnea diagnosis may involve an overall evaluation of the oral health and tongue movement to see if it has the tendency to block airflow during sleep. Some may recommend laser surgery to eliminate the tissue causing tongue restriction. Orthodontists and oral surgeons may also work together to relieve the jaw and stop airflow obstruction. They may also recommend the use of mouthpiece to hold the lower jaw in its proper position during sleep. Dentists may also refer patients to physicians and sleep specialists for medications, stress reduction therapies, and meditations.

Maintain proper body weight to reduce the risks of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and teeth grinding. Avoid drinking alcohol, consuming sedatives, and smoking tobacco excessively, as these may increase the occurrences of breathing cessation at night. Consult your dentist and doctor immediately if you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea and teeth grinding.