When you crack or break a tooth unexpectedly, it can be a frustrating moment. You wonder, “how could this have happened?” your dentist may ask if you grind or clench your teeth. Most people are surprised by this question and say they do not. This can further add to the frustration. At this point you may feel it was bad dental work or something missed at your last check-up. You, as the patient, may very well be right.
You may not be grinding or clenching your teeth and something may have been missed: undiagnosed sleep apnea!
I have a personal vendetta against sleep apnea as the night my father passed away at the age of 52, my mother said he was snoring very loudly. Our dental hygienist brother in law passed away at 35 on the sofa due to sleep apnea.
A Serious Condition
In 2013 I began my studies into sleep apnea as I was looking for solutions as to why high quality dental work was breaking. What I learned was amazing. For those that are not aware of what sleep apnea is, you stop breathing while you are sleeping. Warning signs of possible sleep apnea are snoring, not feeling rested when you wake up, tired and low energy throughout the day, and even having a hard time with controlling diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. When you are in an unconscious state while sleeping, a lot of activity may be going on you are unaware of. During these episodes of apnea, your lower jaw moves around like a restless leg. Furthermore, your body is looking for oxygen and may thrust your lower jaw forward which can collide with your upper teeth.
Simply getting a night guard may help save your teeth, but it may make the underlying sleep apnea worse. Now this is where you, the patient, is correct. You are NOT grinding your teeth, but rather your teeth are hitting each other in a violent fashion during these apnea moments. As your dentist at White Wolf Dental, I am not the provider to diagnose sleep apnea, but rather the one to look for signs and symptoms. If I see signs of sleep apnea, I will refer you to one of our local sleep physicians. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, the standard of care is wearing a CPAP nightly. For those that are intolerant of the CPAP or have mild sleep apnea, your physician may write for a prescription for an oral appliance that we can make at White Wolf Dental.
A Solution That Works
An oral appliance has a compliance rate as high as 80%. Patients report it is much more comfortable than a CPAP and it can be easily taken when you travel. Not every dentist can make a sleep appliance, it takes many hours of training to understand not only how to make the device, but how it treats the apnea itself. Without the guidance of a highly trained dentist, oral appliance therapy may not be as effective. This is very critical as under treated sleep apnea may lead to other issues in your body, including death! As your dentist, I want to more than save your teeth for that beautiful smile, but also potentially save your life!