What Does Your Dentist Look for When Diagnosing Sleep Apnea?

What Does Your Dentist Look for When Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

If you frequently find yourself battling with loud snoring and breathing disorders during sleep, you should consult your dentist right away. Snoring and sleep-disordered breathing are often symptoms of sleep apnea, and a possible reason could be poor oral health.

Sleep apnea denotes a respiratory disorder that occurs during your sleep. It is due to an obstruction in the upper airway, leading to significant pauses in your breathing that assume a repetitive pattern throughout the night. Sleep apnea largely disrupts your sleep, which can promote various health problems including increased stress, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and obesity. According to the National Sleep Foundation, around 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea.

What is the Role of Dentistry in Diagnosing Sleep Apnea?

Because patients tend to visit their dentist more often than their physician, dentists can play a unique role in the diagnosis and treatment of snoring and sleep apnea, particularly the obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The role of dentistry in sleep disorder is increasingly significant, particularly for dealing simultaneously with simple snoring and mild to average OSA. A professional dentist can possibly help you at diverse levels, beginning with the identification of your sleep-related disorder and supporting you in your sleep disorder management.

What Does Your Dentist Look for When Diagnosing Sleep Apnea?

Since a dentist consumes more time in your oral examination, it offers him more access to signs of sleep apnea than your general physician. Minor indications can help prevent OSA problems from getting undiagnosed.

If you are suspected of sleep apnea, your dentist will begin the diagnosis by interrogating you while going through your complete medical record in order to determine the factors responsible for your OSA. The symptoms including a very dry mouth on waking up, morning headaches, or an overall fatigue, are the ones that your dentist looks for in diagnosing you for sleep apnea. The dentist will next perform a thorough physical assessment of your tongue, tonsils, uvula, airway, and neck, to check for abnormalities.

Here are the visual parameters for dentists to diagnose sleep apnea:

Mallampati Classification– This visual review grades the crowding of the upper air duct and can display potential reasons for interrupted breathing at night.

Acid Erosion On Teeth– Evidence of this conveys the existence of acid reflux, which has been proven to be linked with inbuilt sleep apnea.

Evidence Of Mouth Breathing– Oral breathing is a risk to good oral health as well as an indication of a potential sleep-disordered breathing problem.

Orthognathic Classification- Blockage caused by physiological misplacement can be related to apnea.

Bruxism- Indication of grinding or clenching can hint at untreated, undiagnosed issues with breathing during sleep.

Though tongue erosion is not a standard diagnosis of sleep apnea, these indications can help your dentist diagnose a potential OSA case. Observing tongue indentations or dilated tonsils can prompt your dentist to propose further sleep testing.


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Dr. Steffany Mohan is the Owner of Plaza Dental Group and is a leading dentist in Des Moines, Iowa. Dr. Mohan is an expert in implant, family and cosmetic dentistry, is Invisalign certified and has gained a reputation of excellence in the dentistry community. Plaza Dental Group has built a reputation for excellence and its close doctor-patient relationships, which has made them one of the premier offices of Iowa dentists

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