Sleep? Yeah, yeah… I’ll sleep when I’m dead

Student sleeping with head down on desk

November 3, 2021

Poor sleep habits, sleep obstruction or sleep apnea can take years off a person’s life. Having restful sleep impacts our overall wellness and even our life expectancy.

Sleep Apnea occurs when breathing slows down or stops one or more times while you are sleeping. If our bodies are lacking oxygen to our brain, there are several issues that start to appear. You possibly may start experiencing excess daytime fatigue, sleepiness, memory loss, as well as an increase your risks for other systemic factors such as high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and even an early death. Your oral health provider may be able to see signs of sleep apnea through observation of these several characteristics in your own mouth:

  • PChronic or recent issues with TMJ and waking up with soreness in your jaw
  • PSigns of clenching/grinding
  • PNumerous primary teeth extraction
  • PInflammation and redness along the palate
  • PEnlarged tonsils
  • PHigh Narrow Palate
  • PTongue ties
  • PEnlarged tongue

We can even assist in finding you the best treatment options for sleep apnea as well!

How do we test for sleep apnea?

Your orthodontist is a sleep specialist (ADA sleep apnea) and can give you the tools needed for a complete sleep evaluation. This may either an overnight sleep study at a sleep clinic or a home sleep apnea test. From these findings the sleep orthodontist will be able to interpret the data from your study and direct you toward getting a diagnosis. Sometimes it will be determined that the patient needs to have a CPAP machine (which have advanced quite a bit in recent years), however, the goal in our practice is to look for other ways to improve a patient’s breathing besides needing a CPAP machine.

How are restricted airways treated?

Nasal obstruction plays a huge role in this process, and we must find ways to improve this first and foremost. We need to have a CBCT image (3D cone beam computed tomography) that allows the dentist and sleep specialist to evaluate bone anatomy and assess inner airway space. If your jaw and tongue are impeding the airway, then we need to find ways to improve that space as well. We can use both skeletal and dental expansion to widen the space and make more room for your tongue and help open up the airway through orthodontics (such as Invisaline). We may also need help and advice from an ENT (Ear Nose and Throat Specialist), or in advanced cases, an Oral Surgeon may be needed to consult in this process. At our practice, we have seen great results when expanding and moving the lower jaw forward using orthodontics and oral appliances which allows more room for your tongue and airway.

Overall, quality sleep is very important for your health, consult with your Oral Heath Care professional to see if there is anything they can observe during your next checkup to improve your sleep. We’re here to help!

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