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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 Victoria 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.

While there are various varieties of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. The physical blockage of the airway during sleep causes OSA. One of the most prevalent signs of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring. Other common symptoms of sleep apnea include increased daytime weariness, rapid awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking, morning dry mouth or sore throat, and morning headaches.

Sleep apnea not only affects how well you sleep, but it can also have a broader impact on your overall health and well-being.

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

Sleep apnea has the potential to create a number of dental health issues. When a patient has sleep apnea, they will suffer from dry mouth since they will be breathing through their mouth all night. This can lead to poor breath and increased plaque buildup, increasing the risk of gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease.

Sleep apnea can also lead to:

  • 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?

Patients with sleep apnea have low oxygen levels, which is well documented. When this happens, your body reacts by increasing your heart rate and narrowing your arteries. This can result in a variety of cardiac issues, such as elevated blood pressure, an accelerated heart rate, inflammation, and heart stress.

Sleep apnea can lead to a variety of dangerous disorders, including:

  • 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 Victoria dentists today to book a consultation. We may be able to provide you with a referral.

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