Sleep apnea disrupts breathing during sleep, posing a sleep disorder. Detecting and treating sleep apnea symptoms early is vital to avert enduring health problems. 

Yet, recognizing the disorder can be challenging. But that is unless a sleep partner notices irregular breathing or you experience daytime signs such as fatigue and headaches.

A dental examination is another method that you can use to gauge if you have sleep apnea. Your dentist might identify potential signs of sleep apnea by observing specific oral health indicators. 

Here are some of them. 

1. Throat Inflammation

Throat inflammation is a common indicator that prompts dentists to suspect sleep apnea in their patients. This condition involves chronic inflammation of the throat and soft palate. 

Dentists often spot symptoms of sleep apnea by noting inflammation-related markers in the mouth, such as redness, swelling, and excess tissue.

2. Worn Teeth

Individuals experiencing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may grind their teeth during sleep. It can happen because of insufficient oxygen intake.

Teeth grinding also serves as a protective response against mild to moderate OSA. It does so by moving the jaw forward to aid in opening the airway. This chronic grinding can gradually wear down teeth, elevating the risk of breakage or decay over time.

3. Gum Diseases

Sleep apnea often causes breathing interruptions at night, increasing the chances of experiencing dry mouth. The persistent dryness in the mouth environment can pave the way for gum disease, a condition that triggers inflammation of the gums

Untreated sleep apnea symptoms can exacerbate this condition. When the mouth becomes persistently dry due to sleep apnea, the reduced saliva flow heightens the vulnerability of gum tissues to bacterial growth. 

This increased bacterial presence can irritate and inflame the gums, eventually leading to gum disease. 

Over time, this condition can contribute to bleeding or recession of the gums, where they gradually pull away from the teeth. In addition, this is causing potential tooth sensitivity and a change in the appearance of one's smile.

4. Indented Tongue

A scalloped or indented appearance along the edges of the tongue is commonly linked to sleep apnea. This moderate sleep apnea symptom often arises due to unconscious actions during sleep. It’s where individuals press their tongue against the bottom of their mouth to widen the airway passage.

Continuous pressure exerted by the tongue against the surrounding structures can lead to visible notches or waviness along the sides of the tongue. These irregular ridges gradually form, creating an uneven perimeter on the tongue's surface over time. 

Such indentations or scalloping along the tongue edges indicate the tongue's efforts to accommodate the altered airflow patterns during sleep.

5. More Teeth Cavities

Sleep apnea often results in heightened bacterial presence within the mouth due to irregular sleeping patterns. Additionally, reduced saliva production, one of the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, further compounds the issue. 

When there's an imbalance, more bacteria, and less saliva, the mouth, and its surroundings become more susceptible to cavities. The increased bacterial presence and decreased saliva's protective effects create an ideal setting for cavities to form and progress. 

This combination fosters an environment where tooth decay becomes more likely. Moreover, it can occur more rapidly than in a balanced oral environment.

More Profound Ways to Assess Sleep Apnea

Dentists go beyond surface observations by utilizing specialized techniques within dental sleep medicine to diagnose sleep apnea more accurately. Two standard methods employed are:

  • Polysomnography (PSG)

Traditionally performed in sleep clinics, some dentists may refer patients to a specialist for an in-lab PSG study. These devices track central sleep apnea symptoms and physiological parameters during sleep, delivering crucial data for a comprehensive evaluation.

  • Home Sleep Apnea Testing (HSAT)

Dentists might suggest HSAT devices you can conveniently use in your own bed. These portable monitors gather information on airflow, oxygen levels, and breathing patterns, providing insights into potential sleep apnea issues.

Oral Devices to Help Sleep Apnea

After diagnosing sleep apnea, dentists might suggest custom oral appliances as a non-invasive treatment. These personalized devices, similar to sports mouthguards, reposition the jaw and tongue to keep an open airway during sleep. 

Oral appliances offer a practical solution for many individuals with moderate and mild sleep apnea symptoms. 

Sleep Better by Improving Your Dental Health

Our dentist collaborates with sleep specialists at Refresh Snoring and Sleep Apnea Center to ensure a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. 

This collaboration ensures a thorough understanding of your condition and the implementation of the most effective interventions.

Dentists play a crucial role in identifying this condition by observing subtle oral signs and utilizing advanced diagnostic tools. 

Achieving a peaceful night's sleep is possible with your dentist's support. If you've been having trouble sleeping well, ask your dentist about the suitability of a sleep apnea appliance.

Book a free consultation with us, and let’s help you move forward from your sleep apnea symptoms.