As a skilled dentist, you are familiar with the dangers of gum disease — and you do everything you can to help your patients prevent and manage it. You may educate them on oral hygiene, urge them to quit smoking, and encourage them to visit you for regular checkups. But there is more you can do. Namely, you can offer sleep apnea treatment. Let’s talk more about the connection between sleep apnea and gum disease.
Sleep Apnea and Gum Disease: Understanding the Connection
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder that causes repeated pauses in breathing throughout the night. The pauses are the result of tissues in the upper airway blocking the free flow of air. Often, individuals with OSA primarily breathe through their mouth when they are asleep. This can cause the oral cavity to become dry, creating an environment where harmful bacteria can thrive and eventually resulting in gum disease.
That is not all. OSA can contribute to the develop of gum disease in another way. Many people with OSA also suffer from bruxism. Over time, the continual pressure placed on a patient’s gums by the grinding and clenching can cause pockets to form between them and the teeth. Thereafter, bacteria have an opportunity to invade the pockets and cause an infection.
Helping Patients Improve Their Sleep and Protect Their Oral Health
Since OSA is a significant risk factor for gum disease, it is worth your time to consider how you can help patients improve the quality of their sleep. With just a little additional training, you can incorporate oral appliance therapy into your practice.
An oral appliance is a small device that patients wear at night. It gently moves the jaw forward, thereby helping to keep the airway open and preventing obstructions in their breathing. They will be more likely to breathe through their nose and less likely to grind their teeth, resulting in a healthier oral environment.
Some additional ways in which you may be able to help patients include:
- Coach patients on their sleeping habits. For example, you can encourage them to sleep on their side, avoid alcohol before bedtime, and adopt other practices that promote healthy nighttime breathing.
- Screen patients for sleep apnea. Although an official sleep test is necessary to diagnose OSA, you can learn how to identify its signs and thereafter refer patients for testing.
Sleep apnea and gum disease are a dangerous combination. Without treatment, they can lead to devastating health consequences! Fortunately, you are in a position to help patients manage both of these conditions and enjoy the best quality of life possible.
Dr. Kent Smith is widely regarded as an expert in the field of sleep dentistry. He shares his knowledge by regularly hosting training sessions for his fellow dentists. If you want to learn more about how to incorporate OSA treatment into your practice, our team would be happy to answer your questions and help you sign up for an upcoming training seminar. Contact us at 817-318-6352.