Are you zoning out or daydreaming at work? Having trouble concentrating? Are you waking up frequently during the night? Do you often get sleepy, or even fall asleep when you shouldn’t? A sleep specialist is the number one person you may think of going to for help, but your dentist could be the one you need to turn to. You are thinking, how can my dentist help with sleep? The answer might surprise you, because some sleep conditions can be related to how your jaw and bite affect breathing.
Dentists are concerned with more than just your pearly whites. They are there to help you with your overall health and well-being, too. Sleep is extremely important for our health. If the body does not receive enough rest, you simply cannot function properly. Sleep deprivation is a condition that affects a large amount of people, and can be related to disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
During your dental exam, your mouth can reveal if there are other health issues present. The mouth, neck, and jaw can display telltale signs that point to the quality of sleep that you are getting. For instance, worn-down enamel can be a sign of stress or anxiety that causes a person to grind their teeth at night. While the shape of your jaw may also signify to your dentist that you are at risk for sleep apnea. In other words, just by having a look at the shape and positioning of your jaw, dentists can perform an exam to assess if your compromised sleep is related to sleep apnea or snoring.
Specifically, when it comes to sleep disordered breathing, like snoring or OSA, most dentists are in the know. This assessment should include a conversation to talk about your general well-being as of late. Your dentist may ask the following: Are you feeling groggy throughout the day? Do you ever wake up with a sore throat or dry mouth? Do you experience insomnia?
If your dentist suspects you have a sleep disorder, they’ll refer you to a sleep physician to get tested. This might involve having a physical exam performed by the physician, or undergoing a polysomnography test, also known as a sleep study, to measure your blood oxygen level, heart rate, and breathing while you sleep. However, if you are diagnosed as having sleep disordered breathing, you should check back in with your dentist and discuss the next steps in your journey to a better night’s sleep.
Although it may not be widely known, many dentists are specially trained to treat and manage sleep apnea. Dentists can help you with your sleep quality from fitting you for an oral appliance that looks similar to a sports mouth guard, which can open up your airway while you sleep. Other treatments may include a CPAP machine to help control your sleep apnea. Your dentist may also suggest other lifestyle changes you can make, such as consuming a low-fat diet or refraining from computer screens right before bed, to have more restful nights.