Has the sound of your own snoring ever woken you up? Do you constantly feel tired even though it seems like you get enough sleep every night? Does your snoring lead to arguments with your significant other? If the above sounds familiar, you may actually have uncovered clues that you have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that impacts millions of Americans and can cause serious complications if left untreated.
But wait – how do sleep apnea and dentistry go together? What’s the connection? Believe it or not, at the Charlotte Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, Dr. Patrick Broome and his team often see the signs of sleep apnea and other health issues that result from sleep apnea. We are proud to provide sleep apnea screenings at our office and can refer patients to a sleep physician for further testing and evaluation. We can fabricate a custom oral appliance that you wear while sleeping that holds the lower jaw forward and makes breathing easier while you sleep.
We know more than just how to create smiles – sleep dentistry can improve our patients’ quality of life and in some severe cases actually save lives! Schedule your next visit with Dr. Broome to learn more.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is caused when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much while you’re sleeping, causing the (partial to total) collapse of your breathing passage. This collapse causes airflow to stop periodically a few times to hundreds of times during sleep.
The blocked airflow deprives your brain of oxygen and every time this happens your chances of brain damage increases.
4 Under-the-Radar Signs That You Have Obstructed Breathing
Signs that you have sleep apnea can include overall body symptoms as well as dental ones. The most common symptoms include chronic fatigue, irritability, and excessively loud snoring, among others. There are several symptoms, however, that are more difficult to connect to sleep apnea because these are often disregarded as symptoms of other conditions, such as stress.
1. Gastric Reflux and Dental Erosion
Researchers have found that many men and women who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea also have a higher risk of experiencing sleep-related gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Essentially, obstructive breathing puts negative pressure on the individual’s airway, which can trigger the regurgitation of acids from the stomach into the esophagus and mouth. Over time, if the teeth and esophagus are frequently exposed to these stomach acids, the condition can eventually cause erosive damage, increased risk of cancer, and severe tooth damage.
Tooth erosion may not be immediately noticeable to patients, but Dr. Broome knows how to identify the signs and symptoms, which may include enamel loss on the molars and the back sides of the teeth. This is why keeping up with your regular hygiene visits at the Charlotte Center for Cosmetic Dentistry is so important!
2. Morning Headaches
Waking up with a headache in the morning on a frequent basis is a telltale sign of poor breathing. Snoring loudly and struggling to breathe throughout the night reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches your brain, causing the blood vessels to widen, leading to what is known as a vascular headache. Starting the day with a headache will not only put you in a bad mood, but it can eventually dampen your overall quality of life.
3. Difficulty Concentrating
Without a proper night’s rest, it can be difficult to stay focused and motivated throughout a single day let alone reaching your full potential at school or at work. Adults and children who suffer from sleep apnea frequently struggle with memory and learning problems, dozing off in the middle of lunch or conversations, and experiencing mood swings or frustration as a result of struggling to concentrate on daily tasks. These issues can have a wide-reaching impact on everything from one’s education and career to one’s personal life and health.
You may not realize the impact that your sleep apnea has on your life. In many cases, it can be difficult to trace irritability, concentration problems, and low energy to obstructive breathing without discussing the possible signs with a sleep expert. Dr. Broome and his team at the Charlotte Center for Cosmetic Dentistry are more than happy to refer patients to a highly recommended sleep physician.
4. Relationship Problems
It is important to note that most people that suffer from sleep apnea are unaware that they snore or stop breathing at night unless a family member notices or significant other asks them to sleep in another room. Sleep disorders, such as obstructive breathing, can quickly lead to troubled relationships as the sleep apnea sufferer struggles to breathe and get a good night’s rest while their loved one struggles to sleep next to a loud snorer. With both parties suffering from poor sleep, the fatigue and irritability can result in a strained, unhappy relationship.
How Can Sleep Dentistry Help with Obstructive Breathing Problems?
A medical diagnosis of sleep apnea must be made by a sleep physician. Dr. Broome works with qualified sleep physicians in North Carolina to provide patients options besides the traditional CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) units. Many CPAP owners don’t actually use them and continue to put their health at risk each night.
Compared to CPAP, oral appliances are much easier to wear and also much easier to carry when traveling. Oral appliances are not only more convenient but also provide a much safer alternative to using nothing at all. At the Charlotte Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, we can discuss types of oral appliances and determine what would work best for you.
In general, the most common options for treating your obstructive breathing include the following:
• CPAP therapy
• Oral appliances
Although CPAP’s are common these days, many patients feel they are inconvenient and the constant maintenance required to prevent mold growth in the face mask and in airlines is a major reason many people report that they’ve stopped using their CPAP. Therefore, an oral appliance from a dental professional might be much more effective. Various oral appliances that reposition your tongue or keep your lower jaw in the correct position while sleeping can remedy mild to moderate sleep apnea.
Cosmetic dentistry can help especially if you have signs of dental erosion. Of course, we want to treat the cause and not just the symptoms, which is why we are happy to refer our patients to sleep specialists for further treatment. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to prevent obstructive breathing, however, the majority of patients are able to find success with an oral appliance.
Learn more about CPAP at WebMD.com.
If Poor Sleep is Disrupting Your Life, Sleep Dentistry Could Help
At the Charlotte Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, our extensive experience, advanced training, and talented team provide the superior care you want and deserve. Whether you’re interested in general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry for smile improvement or an obstructive breathing solution, contact Dr. Broome today via our website request form or by calling us at 704.815.6659 today and take the first step toward ending your sleeping issues and improving your quality of life.