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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 Vancouver 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?

When you suffer from sleep apnea, you may sleep a full night but feel as though you haven't slept at all. In the cases that are more extreme, patients can be noted to stop breathing as many as 30 times throughout the entire night.

While there are several types of sleep apnea, the most common is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). The physical obstruction of the airway during sleep causes OSA. Snoring is one of the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. Other common symptoms of sleep apnea include excessive daytime tiredness, abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking, morning dry mouth or sore throat, and morning headaches.

Sleep apnea not only affects how rested you feel, but it can also have a more widespread effect on your entire body and health.

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

Sleep apnea has the ability to cause a variety of oral health concerns. When a patient experiences sleep apnea breathing through their mouth all night will cause the symptom of dry mouth. This can cause bad breath and increased plaque build-up and put patients at a higher risk for gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease. 

Sleep apnea can also cause: 

  • 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?

It is well known that patients suffering from sleep apnea have low oxygen levels. When this occurs, your body instinctively increases your heart rate and narrows your arteries. This can lead to a number of cardiac complications, including high blood pressure, an increased heart rate, inflammation, and heart stress.

Some of the serious conditions that could result from sleep apnea are:

  • 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 are unable to diagnose sleep apnea; however, due to the impact it has on your oral health, they are frequently the first healthcare professionals to notice the condition.

If your dentist notices any of the common signs of sleep apnea during your routine dental visit, they will recommend you visit your doctor for an examination and diagnosis. 

Some dental offices also provide dental appliances that can be used to help keep your airway open while you sleep and alleviate 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 Vancouver dentists today to book a consultation. We may be able to provide you with a referral.

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(604) 879-7900