Sleep apnea is an insidious health condition that can be difficult to detect because it occurs when a person is resting. An abundance of research has been devoted to the health effects of sleep apnea in recent years. Some of this research has shown that sleep apnea can weaken the cardiovascular system, affect pulmonary function, and contribute to issues with mood.
Health Effects of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea prevents a person from achieving a consistent, low heart rate throughout sleep. Instead, the cycle of breathing cessation and wakefulness associated with sleep apnea causes a person to breathe very erratically and at times, heavily. Since one cannot achieve a low and constant heart rate, the cardiovascular system might weaken. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Since research shows that sleep apnea can negatively affect the heart, it is important to seek treatment to safeguard one’s health.
The pulmonary system is also affected by untreated sleep apnea. Since this condition prevents a person from breathing properly, oxygen levels in the blood can be affected. Inadequate intake of oxygen impedes the lungs from delivering oxygen to vital organs, which has numerous effects on one’s well-being.
Lastly, sleep deprivation associated with this disorder can have long-lasting effects on one’s mood and cognitive function. Sleep deprivation contributes to irritability, memory loss, and depression. There are numerous physical effects related to sleep deprivation as well, including a weakened immune system.
Additionally, there are a lot of oral health complications related to sleep apnea, including:
Periodontal disease is an incredibly destructive condition that is capable of eroding bone and gum tissue. It is also the leading cause of tooth loss in adulthood. A chronic infection, gum disease can develop when the mouth is dry. Since patients with sleep apnea breathe through their mouths, they tend to suffer with severe dry mouth, which irritates gingival tissue.
Studies have shown that sleep apnea tends to coincide with a destructive habit known as bruxism. Normally occurring during sleep, bruxism involves the habitual grinding and clenching of teeth. Over time, bruxism will wear down tooth enamel and eventually lead to worn dentition. When tooth wear is severe, people typically require multiple restorations like dental crowns and bridges to rebuild the bite.
TMJ disorder, like bruxism, commonly coincides with sleep apnea. Involving the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), TMJ disorder greatly affects oral function. The TMJs and the supportive structures around them (muscles and ligaments) are responsible for all mouth movement. When the TMJs and the surrounding tissues are strained, oral function becomes impaired and in severe cases, people with TMJ dysfunction will experience an inability to open and close the mouth along with debilitating orofacial pain.
Inflammation and Longer Post-Op Recovery Times
Patients with untreated sleep apnea tend to have more inflammation. When the body produces inflammatory responses, healing after procedures takes longer. For instance, those with sleep apnea receiving dental implants will likely need longer to recover than patients who do not have sleep apnea.
Undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea can have devastating effects on one’s oral health and overall wellbeing. Our oral surgeons provide treatment for sleep apnea. Call us today to reserve a consultation.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea or suspect you have this condition, you have easily accessible treatment options. Sometimes, patients find relief with oral appliance and/or CPAP therapy. Others might need oral surgery to correct abnormalities in the oral cavity or nose that disrupt breathing. Abstaining from sedatives and alcohol before bed along with managing one’s weight can help mitigate symptoms as well.