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How can sleep apnea become life-threatening?

Sleep apnea can harm various aspects of a person's health and quality of life, but how severe can it actually become? Here, our Langley dentists share some information about the impact of sleep apnea on your health and how it has the potential to become life-threatening.

What is sleep apnea and how does it happen?

When you have sleep apnea, the symptoms that you experience while sleeping can lead to you waking you feeling as though you haven't slept at all. In more severe situations, patients may stop breathing up to 30 times throughout the night.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which has various varieties. The airway becomes physically blocked during sleep, leading to OSA. Obstructive sleep apnea often manifests itself through snoring. Other common symptoms of sleep apnea include feeling excessively tired during the day, waking up suddenly gasping or choking, experiencing a dry mouth or sore throat in the morning, and having headaches in the morning.

Sleep apnea has a significant impact on both the quality of your sleep and your overall health and well-being.

How does sleep apnea affect your health?

Sleep apnea can have a large impact on your oral health. Dry mouth is a common issue for patients with sleep apnea, as they breathe through their mouth throughout the night. Bad breath and a buildup of plaque can increase the chances of developing gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease.

Other potential consequences of sleep apnea include:

  • Teeth grinding (which may cause wear and breakage)
  • Worn tooth surfaces 
  • Increased cavities 
  • Mouth sores
  • Tongue with scalloped edges 

Can sleep apnea have serious effects on your health?

Research extensively supports the fact that sleep apnea leads to decreased oxygen levels in individuals. Your heart rate increases and your arteries narrow when this occurs. This can lead to a range of cardiac problems, such as high blood pressure, a faster heart rate, inflammation, and stress on the heart.

Sleep apnea can cause several serious and potentially life-threatening conditions including:

  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack 
  • Asthma
  • COPD

Because of the ability of sleep apnea to cause these other serious conditions, you should contact your primary physician immediately if you notice any of the signs. By contacting your physician as soon as possible you can receive the appropriate testing and diagnosis quickly to begin managing the effects as early as possible.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed and treated?

Dentists cannot diagnose sleep apnea, but because of the influence it has on your dental health, they are typically the first healthcare providers to discover the disease.

If your dentist notices any signs that indicate the possibility of sleep apnea during your routine dental exam, they will advise you to see your doctor for an evaluation and diagnosis.

Some dental clinics can offer options to manage the symptoms like nightguards to help keep your jaw and tongue in the proper position while you sleep.

Are you still tired in the morning even though you thought that you slept all night? Contact our Langley dentists today to book a consultation. We may be able to provide you with a referral.

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