If you're struggling with obstructive sleep apnoea (often called 'OSA'), you're probably talking about it with your doctor already. You might not have realised that your dentist is also an important part of dealing with this condition; sleep apnoea affects your teeth as well as other parts of your body, and by discussing the problem with your dentist you can limit the impact it has and potentially explore new ways to overcome it.
What Sleep Apnoea Does To Your Teeth
- People with sleep apnoea often develop temporomandibular joint disorders, more commonly known as TMD. These disorders are strongly associated with night-time tooth grinding behaviour, which will over time seriously damage both the enamel on your back teeth and your molars themselves.
- Sleep apnoea generally leaves its sufferers with very dry mouths in the morning. This makes your 'morning breath' considerably worse, but it has other effects too--including an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
How Your Dentist Can Help
There are numerous treatments for sleep apnoea--including CPAP machines, lifestyle adjustments and surgery--and for most of them your doctor will be your first port of call. These methods don't work for everyone; making changes to your lifestyle can be incredibly difficult and it's even harder for anyone suffering from the sleep deprivation OSA leaves you with, and surgery is a huge step to be taken only when other options have been exhausted.
This is where your dentist comes in. A dentist can fit you for an oral sleep appliance, which have been found by the Australasian Sleep Association to be an excellent non-surgical alternative or addition to CPAP machines for people who are intolerant of them. These devices come in two main types:
- Mandibular advancement devices (MAD) look a little like mouthguards sometimes worn for sport, and aim to relieve your sleep apnoea by using splints to re-align your jaw while you sleep. This opens up your airways, allowing you to breathe more freely and keeping your nightly OSA episodes to a minimum.
- Tongue retaining devices (TRD) are less common and aim to combat your nightly OSA episodes by holding the tongue in place rather than by adjusting the jaw. Some people find that they are more effective, and if you have dentures that you don't wish to sleep in, a TRD will be a better fit for you than a MAD.
Whichever treatment option is right for you, it's important that you don't let OSA go unchecked--the consequences can be serious. Make an appointment with your dentist today to discuss sleep apnoea treatments.