AROUND 1 IN 5 children experience some effects of sleep apnea, like a snoring habit. Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes repeated brief interruptions to breathing during sleep. This disorder, as well as being potentially life-threatening, can have serious consequences for oral health.
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA for short) happens when the airway is blocked, usually by the tongue and soft palate collapsing against the back of the throat, closing it off. At this point, the brain forces the person to wake up and take a breath, which can happen hundreds of times in a single night. Having a hard time getting a restful night of sleep is another sign of sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea’s Impacts On Oral Health
How is oral health connected? Beyond the effects of sleep deprivation (irritability, hyperactivity, exhaustion, and difficulty concentrating at school), a child with sleep apnea will also be more vulnerable to oral health problems like gum disease and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD).
Studies have shown that when the throat relaxes in a sleep apnea episode, the jaw reflexively clenches to prevent the airway from closing off. Problems associated with TMD include pain when chewing, soreness in the jaw, chronic headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and even worn, cracked, or broken teeth.
What Are The Signs Of Sleep Apnea?
The following symptoms can indicate the presence of sleep apnea. If you notice one or more of these, contact our practice for your dental sleep treatment:
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Loud snoring at night
- Waking up at night short of breath
- Snorting or choking sounds during the night (indicating a restart of breathing)
- Headaches upon waking in the morning
- Falling asleep unintentionally during the day
- Extreme drowsiness throughout the day
The dentist often spots a sign of sleep apnea first and can provide treatment for obstructive sleep apnea!