Sleep apnea is a serious condition and you may not know you have it. Did you know your dentist can screen and assess for sleep disordered breathing, such as obstructive sleep apnea (or otherwise known as OSA)? As a dentist, I work intimately with the structures of your face and jaws and since our breathing involves these structures, that makes me uniquely positioned to educate and screen my patients for sleep disordered breathing.
It’s estimated that 5.4 million of Canadian adults have been diagnosed or are at high risk of experiencing obstructive sleep apnea. And some research shows that about 80% of patients remain undiagnosed. Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious condition that can especially put a lot of strain on your heart and the rest of the cardiovascular system. This can ultimately lead to developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. In addition to heart issues, you are also at increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes, alzheimers and cancer.
Often, one of the first signs of sleep disordered breathing is tooth grinding and dentists can detect this by assessing the wear of your teeth. Grinding can speed up wear-and-tear of your teeth, jaw muscles and joints. While tooth grinding may be the first sign, it isn’t the only sign of OSA you may have related to your oral health. Part of our semi-annual exam, we assess for certain dental signs of sleep disordered breathing, such as:
- Under-development of the upper and lower jaws
- Tooth crowding
- Poor tongue tone and posture
- Restricted airways in the throat
- Enlarged tonsils
- Scalloped edges around your tongue
We also use questionnaires that help us determine level of daytime fatigue, snoring and your overall quality of sleep.
If you suspect you have sleep disordered breathing, talk to your family doctor or maybe ask your dentist if there are any dental signs they may see. At District Dental, we offer a free take-home sleep screening test to our new patients. The sleep test gets read by a board-certified sleep specialist. After reviewing your results, I’ll encourage you to see your primary care physician or a sleep specialist for further assessment and diagnosis. There may be a dental solution for your sleep breathing problem, and we will work together with your medical team on getting the best treatment suited for your needs.
A 2014 study by the Public Health Agency of Canada estimated 5.4 million Canadian adults have been diagnosed with, or are at high risk of experiencing, obstructive sleep apnea