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Which signs of sleep apnea are most obvious to dentists?

Which signs of sleep apnea are most obvious to dentists?

Were you aware that your dentist may be able to spot signs of sleep apnea? Our Surrey dentists sometimes see obvious symptoms in patients and may be able to recommend you see your physician. 

Have you dreaded mornings for as long as you remember? Perhaps you wake up feeling unrefreshed, cranky and exhausted. If so, this may be more than a case of just not being a morning person. You may have sleep apnea, and dentists are often the first to notice signs of this serious sleep disorder. 

When an individual suffers from sleep apnea, their breathing will be repeatedly interrupted while they sleep. These pauses can be caused by a lack of respiratory effort, physical blockage of airflow, or a combination of both. Pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes and may occur 30 or more times per hour. 

Which signs of sleep apnea do dentists often notice?

Your dentist might be the first professional to notice or ask whether you've been having symptoms of sleep apnea. Here are some signs of the condition dentists often see:

  • Receding or inflamed gums 
  • Tongue with scalloped edges 
  • Worn tooth surfaces 
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism), which may cause wear and breakage 
  • Spike in cavities due to damage to teeth as a result of grinding 
  • Redness in throat (caused by excessive snoring) 

Other symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) including choking or gasping while attempting to sleep, waking frequently during the night, night sweats, morning headaches, loud snoring, high blood pressure and dry mouth when waking. 

As you might imagine, they symptoms can cause the quality of a patient's sleep to deteriorate and sufferers to feel fatigued throughout the day. Sleep apnea is also linked to a greater risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. 

How can my dentist help?

Dentists cannot diagnose sleep apnea. However, they are often some of the first people who can spot symptoms and let you know if you have an increased risk of developing it, since your jaws and related structures can contribute to OSA. Your dentist also likely sees you more often than your doctor. Your dentist can refer you to a physician for a follow-up assessment. 

If a physical blockage of airflow has caused the sleep apnea, the person will be diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which is the most common type of the condition. 

Your dentist can conduct a dental exam and take X-rays of your neck and mouth, which might reveal abnormally large tissues in the throat or other blockage in the airway. 

Are you interested in learning more about sleep apnea? Please contact our Surrey BC dental office. We are always happy to answer our patient's questions or recommend you see your doctor. 

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