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How can sleep apnea become life-threatening?

Sleep apnea can have a negative effect on various aspects of a person's health and quality of life, but how serious can it become? Today, our 100 Mile House dentists talk about how your body responds to sleep apnea and when it might become life-threatening.

What is sleep apnea and how does it happen?

Sleep apnea causes you to sleep a full night but feel as if you haven't slept at all. In more severe situations, patients may stop breathing up to 30 times throughout the night.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which has various varieties. The airway becomes physically blocked during sleep, leading to OSA. Obstructive sleep apnea often manifests itself through snoring. Other common symptoms of sleep apnea include feeling excessively tired during the day, waking up suddenly with gasping or choking, experiencing a dry mouth or sore throat in the morning, and having headaches in the morning.

Sleep apnea has a significant impact on both the quality of your sleep and your overall health and well-being.

What is the effect of sleep apnea on your overall health?

Dental health issues can potentially be caused by sleep apnea. Dry mouth is a common issue for patients with sleep apnea, as they breathe through their mouth throughout the night. Bad breath and a buildup of plaque can increase the chances of developing gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease.

Other potential consequences of sleep apnea include:

  • Teeth grinding (which may cause wear and breakage)
  • Worn tooth surfaces 
  • Increased cavities 
  • Mouth sores
  • Tongue with scalloped edges 

What are some of the more severe side effects of sleep apnea?

Research extensively supports the fact that sleep apnea leads to decreased oxygen levels in individuals. Your heart rate increases and your arteries narrow when this occurs. This can lead to a range of cardiac problems, such as high blood pressure, a faster heart rate, inflammation, and stress on the heart.

A variety of dangerous disorders can be caused by sleep apnea, such as:

  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack 
  • Asthma
  • COPD

Because of the ability of sleep apnea to cause these other serious conditions, it is very important that you contact your dentist immediately if you notice any of the signs. By contacting your dentist as soon as possible you can receive the appropriate testing and diagnosis quickly to begin managing the effects as early as possible.

How can sleep apnea be managed?

Dentists cannot diagnose sleep apnea, but because of the influence it has on your dental health, they are typically the first healthcare providers to discover the disease.

If your dentist sees any of the usual symptoms of sleep apnea during a routine dental appointment, they will advise you to see your doctor for an evaluation and diagnosis.

Some dentist offices also offer dental appliances to help keep your airway open while you sleep and ease the symptoms of sleep apnea.

Do you feel like you haven't slept at all even if you had a full night's sleep? Contact our 100 Mile House dentists today to book a consultation. We may be able to provide you with a referral.

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