Have Sleep Apnea? Why You Shouldn’t Put Off the Dentist

Have Sleep Apnea? Why You Shouldn't Put Off the Dentist

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

Obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which your airways close up briefly throughout the night, can have a huge effect on your health. It can lead to daytime sleepiness (since every time you stop breathing momentarily, you wake up) and it increases your risk for high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, liver problems, and other serious health issues. But it turns out, the health issues don’t stop there. Sleep apnea has been shown to negatively affect your teeth too. Here are three dental problems to keep an eye out for if you have sleep apnea.

  • Cracked or worn teeth: Grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep—a condition called bruxism—is more common in people who have sleep apnea. One in every four people who has sleep apnea grinds his or her teeth. Over time, this can cause tooth sensitivity (and in some cases, cracked and damaged teeth). If you have tired, tight jaw muscles or sensitive teeth, this might be happening to you.
  • Jaw pain: Sleep apnea is associated with chronic pain disorders, including jaw pain like TMJ or TMD. If it hurts to open and move your jaw bones, you may have one of these conditions.
  • Higher risk of cavities: People who have sleep apnea are likelier to breathe through their mouths—a habit that can dry out protective saliva and lead to more tooth decay. As a result, your dentist might notice more enamel erosion and cavities.

The good news is that getting control over your sleep apnea can reduce or eliminate these dental issues. Talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist to find out the best treatment plan for you. And talk to your dentist, too, about the various ways that you can treat any related dental problems.