Snoring, Sleep Apnea and Dentistry

Continuing our discussion concerning the health connection between the mouth and the body, we will review the condition known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea, its common symptoms and what can be done to minimize the potentially devastating effects of this disease.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which patients repeatedly stop and restart breathing during sleep. The throat muscles intermittently relax during the sleep cycles, and the airway becomes  temporarily blocked.  The muscles normally support the soft palate and tongue. When these muscles relax, the airway either narrows or closes as a breath is taken, and the flow of air is blocked. As a result the blood level of oxygen is reduced, the nervous system thereby senses impaired breathing and awakens the patient so that an open airway is restored. These events can occur as many as forty or even more times each hour throughout the night. The end result is an inability to reach the normal, deep, restful and necessary phases of sleep.  This lack of quality sleep results in sleep deprivation.

sleep_apnea

People with sleep apnea usually snore (often loudly), may wake during the night with  gasping or choking, or may seem to stop breathing periodically according to their bed partners. OSA is most commonly seen in middle-aged and older adults and people who are overweight.  Men are more frequently affected, but women and children may also exhibit symptoms of Sleep Apnea.

Common signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Snoring (often loudly)
  • Episodes of interrupted breathing during sleep
  • Abrupt  awakenings during the night
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
  • Morning headaches
  • Mood changes including depression or irritability insomnia

In addition, certain factors increase the likelihood of a patient’s having Obstructive Sleep Apnea.  Those with one or more of these signs are urged to speak with their primary care physician about the need to be tested for OSA. These factors include:

  • Being overweight
  • Having a neck size greater than 17 inches for men and 16 inches for women
  • Having high blood pressure especially if resistant to medications
  • Having a narrow airway possibly due to enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids
  • Chronic nasal congestion
  • Diabetes — type I or 2
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Smoking
  • Frequent use of alcohol

 

If a patient is unaware of their Sleep Apnea condition or if is left untreated, a variety of complications may develop.  Conditions associated with OSA include:

  • Cardiovascular problems including high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart attack, as well as heart failure and stroke and heart arrhythmias.
  • Daytime drowsiness, fatigue and irritability as well as difficulty concentrating.
  • Children with OSA may have problems in school and commonly have attention or behavior disorders.
  • Sleep deprived partners — commonly bed partners may choose to sleep in a separate room.

 

In addition to seeking the advice of your doctor, there are steps that you can take to at least minimize the effects of OSA.

  • Try to sleep on your side
  • Avoid drinking alcohol close to bedtime
  • If you are drowsy, avoid driving or using machinery
  • If you are overweight  lose weigh
  • Exercise regularly
  • Quit smoking
  • Use nasal decongestant

If you are diagnosed as having Obstructive Sleep Apnea, there are three traditional therapies which are used to control this condition.   The first is positive airway pressure in which a device called a CPAP is worn over the nose and/or mouth while you sleep.   It employs a steady stream of air to maintain an open airway.

Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP)

Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP)

The second is a dental appliance which is designed to hold the jaw in a downward and forward position.  In this position, the tongue and soft tissue at the back of the mouth are held  to effectively maintain an open airway. These devices are also used to minimize or eliminate snoring.

                                      Sleep Appliance
                                              Somnodent Sleep Appliance

Third, there are various surgical procedures which may be appropriate for some patients.

If you have any questions about obstructive sleep apnea or the oral appliances which are used to treat this disease, please call us at 908.359.6655 or via our website at www.DesignsForDentalHealth.com

 

 

 

Gum Disease, Inflammation, and Your Health

All of our body’s organ systems are interconnected. What happens in one system can and often does affect other systems. One prominent and currently emphasized interrelationship is the one between periodontal (gum) disease and cardiovascular disease. And in particular, it is inflammation which is the common link between these two conditions.

Inflammation by itself is not a bad thing. Acute inflammation is the body’s normal response to injury and infection. This type of inflammation is experienced as redness, pain and swelling. Immediately after an injury, there is a biochemical reaction which improves blood flow to the affected area. Nerve and other cells send out signals to recruit white blood cells which help fight foreign bodies. This acute inflammation is absolutely necessary for normal good health.

There is another kind of inflammation which is our main concern in this article. That is chronic inflammation which is also known as low–grade or systemic inflammation. This inflammation is long–lasting and examples include autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In these cases the body mistakenly initiates an inflammatory response even though there is no actual infection or injury to be fought. Other examples of chronic inflammation include inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

periodontal-disease (1)

 

Chronic “hidden” inflammation occurs throughout the body when something engages the immune system. This engagement varies from person to person but may include repeated or prolonged infection, smoking and gum disease. Obesity also makes one prone to inflammation as fat cells turn out inflammatory proteins called cytokines. Most people don’t know that they are inflamed. There is a test which measures the inflammatory marker called the C–reactive protein but it is not used routinely to determine increased risk of associated diseases. The important point is that inflammation is the primary cause for most of our serious chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease to name but a few.

As far as the connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, research indicates that heart disease, clogged arteries, stroke and bacterial endocarditis may all be linked to oral health. Researchers believe that gum–disease–producing bacteria enter the bloodstream and make their way to the heart. And just as these bacteria create chronic inflammation and damage of the gums and bone around the teeth, the same bacteria can cause a similar response in the blood vessels. Inflammation can begin and accelerate the build-up of plaques with in blood vessels – called atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. These plaques decrease the flow of blood to both the heart and the brain, and if such a plaque breaks free can result in a heart attack or stroke.

periodontal-disease

What can you do? Roughly 75% of adults have some form of gum disease and 30 % have moderate to advanced periodontitis. Those with more advanced gum disease are much more likely to develop associated inflammation-related heart disease or stroke or the other inflammation-related illnesses. Having a thorough periodontal examination and following up with necessary gum disease periodontal therapy is the best first step. Avoid the obvious creators of inflammation which have been proven to be unhealthy. Prime examples are smoking and heavy drinking of alcohol.

There are many who advocate an “anti-inflammatory” diet. Many of the recommended foods would be typical of Mediterranean cuisine and certainly represent good nutrition. Such a diet would include:

• Generous amounts of fruits and vegetables

• Using healthy fats like olive oil

• Eating small portions of nuts

• Drinking red wine in moderation

• Eating fish regularly

• Limiting or eliminating red meat

If you would like more information about inflammation, gum disease and your health, please feel free to contact us by telephone at 908.359.6655 or via our website at www.DesignsForDentalHealth.com