By Dr. Nicole Mariano
Over the last few years, sleep apnea has become a new hot topic. Sleep medicine has become a booming specialty. More and more people have CPAPs or use a dental sleep device. Despite its rapid growth and focus, many people are surprise when I ask them about how well they sleep. Most people think, why the heck is my dentist asking me about sleep? What does this have to do with my teeth? In reality, your quality of sleep and sleep apnea directly affect the long term health of your teeth and chewing system.
There are many different sleep disorders. Several of them are due narrowing of the windpipe. This could be complete closure (sleep apnea) or a slight constricting of the airway (upper airway resistance, deviated septum, sinus issues, etc.). When an individual is sleeping and their airway is affected, the body responds by doing anything to get enough air. Some people breathe through the mouth. This causes your mouth to become dry and puts you at risk of having gum disease or chronically swollen gums. Some people clench their teeth as hard as possible to keep their airway open. This puts a tremendous amount of force on the teeth and jaw joints. Long term it will cause tooth wear, fractured teeth, root canals, tooth loss and other dental issues. Some people slide their jaws forward to get as much air in as possible. This causes a complete disruption of the chewing system. Long term it will cause tooth wear, fractured teeth, root canals, tooth loss and other dental issues.
Sleep issues do direct impact your teeth and chewing system. If you have trouble sleeping or find yourself clenching, you should consider speaking to your dentist or physician about having a sleep study completed. It will improve your sleep, protect your teeth and most importantly, it could save your life.