Sleep is one of the most important gifts we can give ourselves to add quality and years to our life yet more than 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. According to the Academy of Sleep Medicine, this means approximately 1 in every 15 Americans have sleep apnea. It’s a serious disease and increases your risk for the following medical conditions:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart attacks
- High blood pressure
- Atrial fibrillation
- Chronic inflammation
- Cognitive function
Sleep apnea is defined by the National Institutes of Health as a condition in which breathing stops and restarts many times while sleeping and is the most destructive of all sleep disordered breathing conditions.
There are two types of sleep apnea – central and obstructive. For the purposes of this article, we will discuss Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) which is the most common type of sleep apnea and occurs because of an airway obstruction.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is typically preceded by a condition called Upper Airway Respiratory Syndrome (UARS). Upper Airway Respiratory Syndrome is another form of sleep disordered breathing that is characterized by snoring, severe daytime sleepiness, and/or increased breathing and is not as severe as sleep apnea. If we think of Obstructive Sleep Apnea as “fire”, then Upper Airway Respiratory Syndrome is the “smoke” before the fire.
With our expert knowledge and training, we can screen you for Upper Airway Respiratory Syndrome and Obstructive Sleep Apnea and give you the care you deserve and need. Our goal is to prevent both the “smoke” and the “fire” from occurring.
Fighting for A Good’s Night Rest
Sleep apnea is a fight between oxygen reaching your brain and sleeping. In other words, when you have sleep apnea or sleep disordered breathing, you are forcing your brain to choose between breathing and sleeping. The winner will always be breathing and that means a good night’s rest will always be the loser.
Many studies have shown that deep sleep (REM sleep) is a critical process needed for your body and mind to heal, repair and regenerate. Healthy individuals achieve deep sleep easily and naturally. Individuals with sleep apnea and sleep disordered breathing rarely achieve healthy levels of deep sleep. A person with sleep disordered breathing can have 8-10 hours of sleep the night before and then wake up like he or she only slept for 4 hours. Snoring, collapsing of the airway, and choking for air causes the brain to never achieve those precious and vital stages of deep sleep.
The Relationship Between Dentistry, Sleep and Breathing
So, how is this related to dentistry? What if I told you that sleep apnea and sleep breathing disorders can affect the health of your teeth, gums, tongue, and jaws and vice versa? If you have sleep apnea, you are more likely to grind your teeth. A person suffering from sleep apnea may also notice that his or her gums may also be more red, dry and irritated. A person with a large tongue or narrow jaws may have difficulty breathing normally.
As dentists and experts of the mouth, we typically are the first to spot these problems and provide you the treatment you need. Let’s also point out that you usually see your dentist more often than your family physician or ear, nose and throat specialist. So, it makes sense that we are naturally screening you for airway and sleep breathing issues during your dental exams.
Dr. Jeannie Ju, Dr. Sung Ju and the team at Creative Smiles Dentistry in Tucson are highly trained in screening and assessing airway and sleep disordered breathing issues. Join our movement of achieving high quality sleep, healthy mouths and whole-body health success. We are excited to be YOUR partner in YOUR success so you can look your best, feel your best and live your best. Contact us Today to get started on this journey of health!
*Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog to learn more about the relationship between sleep health and dentistry!
Author: Jeannie Ju, DDS