If you notice that you are sleep deprived or often drowsy and can’t figure out why, it turns out that your dentist may be the best person to identify a common sleep disorder. A recent study from the University of Buffalo, published in the Saudi Medical Journal, came to the conclusion that oversized tonsils and large tongue indentations (teeth imprints that appear on the tongue that may indicate it’s too big for the mouth), could put individuals at an increased risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, also called OSA.
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
OSA is a condition where breathing can stop and start when a person sleeps because their airways get blocked. As you sleep, the muscles in your body become relaxed, including those in your throat, which normally help to keep it open wide enough for the air to properly flow into the lungs. When these throat muscles relax, the tissues can close in and block your airways, causing a stop in breathing, called apnea. Louder than normal snoring can be a significant sign of obstructive sleep apnea, though there are many other signs as well. Other common symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea include awaking abruptly, gasping during sleep, and continual sleepiness throughout the day. If these apply to you, it may be good to ask the dentist at your next dental appointment to see if your mouth size, tonsils and tongue could indicate that you, indeed, are suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Can Lead To Serious Health Issues If Undiagnosed
Obstructive sleep apnea is said to affect more than 18 millions adult nationwide. If the disorder is not dealt with properly it can lead to issues like diabetes, depression, memory loss, drowsy driving and even cardiovascular disease. Often, according to the National Sleep Foundation, OSA goes untreated and eludes diagnosis. The foundation also notes that men often report having OSA more than women, but this may just be due to misdiagnoses for women.
Dentist May Be Able To Spot It First
Dentists, like Seaside Family dentist Dr. Scott N. Santos, may be in a unique position to spot the enlarged tonsils or tongue and help refer a patient to the proper sleep medicine professional. According to orthodontic researcher and professor Thikriat Al-Jewair at the University at Buffalo, “Dentists see into their patients’ mouths more than physicians do and the signs are easy to identify.” As lead author of the study she noted, “We need to teach students about this condition before they get out in the field and educate dentists about the major role they play in identifying and treating patients with sleep-related disorders.”
Those who participated in the 200-person study were screened for a variety of risk factors for OSA, which included blood pressure, neck circumference, and the size of tonsils, uvula, and tongue. Obesity can also have a large affect on whether a person reports OSA symptoms, as obese patients in the study were almost 10 times more likely to report OSA symptoms compared to those who were not obese.
If you are concerned about your oral health, or have questions about sleep apnea and how it relates to your dental health, please let our Seaside Family Dentistry office know at your next appointment.