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How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Overall Health

While you may know that sleep apnea can prevent you from feeling rested in the morning are you also aware that it can cause other potentially serious health concerns? Today, our North Vancouver dentists talk about what sleep apnea is, how it occurs and how it can affect your overall health.

What happens when you experience sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common sleep-related breathing disorder that can cause a person to repeatedly stop breathing for short periods of time over the course of the night while they're asleep. In the cases that are more extreme, patients can be noted to stop breathing as many as 30 times throughout the entire night.

While there are several types of sleep apnea, the most common type is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA is caused by a physical obstruction of the airway while sleeping. Snoring is one of the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. Other common symptoms of sleep apnea include excessive tiredness during the day, abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking, a dry mouth or sore throat in the morning, and morning headaches. 

This condition can have a negative effect on many parts of you not just on your oral health but also on your overall health as well.

How can sleep apnea affect your oral health?

Sleep apnea has the potential to cause a number of oral health issues. When a patient has sleep apnea, they will experience dry mouth because they will be breathing through their mouth all night. This can lead to bad breath and increased plaque buildup, increasing the risk of gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease. 

Sleep apnea can also cause: 

  • Teeth grinding (which may cause wear and breakage)
  • Worn tooth surfaces 
  • Increased cavities 
  • Mouth sores
  • Tongue with scalloped edges 

In what ways can suffering from sleep apnea affect your overall health?

Sleep apnea is known to lower the oxygen levels of patients who suffer from the condition. When this happens, your body reacts instinctively by increasing your heart rate and narrowing your arteries. This can result in a variety of cardiac complications such as high blood pressure, an increased heart rate, increased inflammation, and heart stress. 

Some of the serious conditions that could result from sleep apnea are:

  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack 
  • Asthma
  • COPD

Because of the ability of sleep apnea to cause these other serious conditions, it is very important that you contact your dentist immediately if you notice any of the signs. By contacting your dentist as soon as possible you can receive the appropriate testing and diagnosis quickly to begin managing the effects as early as possible.

Are there ways that you can manage the effects of sleep apnea?

Dentists are unable to diagnose sleep apnea; however, they are frequently the first healthcare professionals to notice the condition due to the impact it has on your oral health.

If your dentist notices any of the common signs of sleep apnea during your routine dental visit, they will recommend you visit your doctor for an examination and diagnosis. 

Some dental offices also provide dental appliances that can be used to help keep your airway open while you sleep and alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea. 

Do you have questions about what to do if you are experiencing the signs of sleep apnea? Contact our North Vancouver dentists today to book a consultation. We may be able to provide you with a referral afterwards.

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