We all want two things: fresh breath and a good night’s sleep. Because the two are interrelated, you can get both by paying attention to a few warning signs and talking to Dr. Alston at Genesis Family Dentistry. Let’s look at what sleep apnea is and how it can affect your oral health and quality of sleep.What is sleep apnea?According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep apnea is a common and serious sleeping disorder affecting about 25 million American adults. This condition is characterized by repeated apneas (breathing interruptions) in the middle of sleep.These apneas stop oxygen from reaching the lungs and cause the patient to wake up partially due to the lack of fresh breath. This results in loud snoring or choking, causing sleep deprivation and restless nights. Since sleep apnea interrupts the normal sleep cycle, it can zap your mental performance and daytime energy and may affect your long-term health.Important: Sleep apnea can be fatal if left untreated. It can lead to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, lowered oxygen levels, increased ADHD symptoms, depression, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, stroke, and heart attack.How do you know if you have sleep apnea?Many people with sleep apnea don’t realize they have it until their long-suffering partner or family member pushes them to see a doctor. Loud snoring is common among sleep apnea patients, but that’s not always the case.If you have this sleeping disorder, you stop breathing multiple times during your sleep. Because you may not notice this, you need to look for several other warning signs.Sleep apnea symptomsBelow are the signs of sleep apnea:Absent and reduced breathingForgetfulnessDry mouth or sore throat in the morningDecrease in concentration and attentionHeadaches and dry mouth upon wakingLoud snoringDecreased libido or sexual dysfunctionGasping for air while sleepingWaking up often to urinate (nocturia)Daytime sleepiness and fatigue Symptoms in women also include insomnia, depression, sleep disturbances, and anxiety. Children may experience academic performance issues, bed-wetting, hyperactivity, and asthma exacerbation.Effects of sleep apnea on your oral healthGood, quality sleep is important as it helps maintain your overall health and reduces mouth ulcers, bad breath, and the development of gum disease. Oral health issues associated with sleep apnea include:TMJ disordersResearch shows that sleep apnea and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders go hand-in-hand. The TMJ connects your upper jaw to the lower jaw on each side of your face. Sleep apnea can result in a TMD or TMJ disorder, leading to a clenched jaw. People with TMJ disorder could experience the following symptoms:Jaw painHeadaches (including migraines)Problem with chewingPain in the head, neck, and shouldersTeeth grindingLocked jaw (inability to close or open the mouth for a particular period)BruxismBruxism (also known as teeth grinding or jaw clenching) is another sleep-related disorder related to sleep apnea. Bruxism frequently occurs during sleep and may even occur while the patient is awake.Teeth grinding has a negative effect on your sleep and causes involuntary movement of your jaw. You may not know you’re suffering from this condition, but your dentist may discover evidence during your regular dental visit. Symptoms of bruxism include:Broken, cracked, or chipped teethLoose teethEroded tooth surface (which can lead to tooth decay)Pain in your face, jaw, head, and neckDryness of your mouth, lips, and throat when you wake upMouth breathingSleep apnea often makes its victims sleep with their mouths open. Mouth breathing can dry up the saliva in the mouth and lead to mouth sores, increased plaque, gum disease, tooth decay, and more cavities.Who is at risk?Although sleep apnea is most common among older men, it can affect both sexes and people of all ages. However, certain factors can increase your risk of developing this disorder. These include:Being over 40 years oldBeing overweightSnoring or having a family history of sleep apnea Taking narcoticsSmokingHaving a recent history of strokeHaving a small jaw boneHaving a large tongue or tonsilsHaving sinus or nasal problemsContact your dentist as soon as possible if you have jaw aches, toothaches, headaches, feel exhausted, or have any of the risk factors mentioned above.Take control of your sleep apneaSleep apnea health effects are so common that your dentist might notice the signs during your regular dental visit and be the first to diagnose the disorder. If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, or you’re experiencing the symptoms, you don’t have to continue living with the health issues and sleep interruptions. We can help!At Genesis Family Dentistry, we offer proprietary, non-surgical, and non-invasive sleep apnea treatment in uptown Charlotte. We also offer revolutionary dental services like night guards, dental cleanings, and periodontal disease treatments to address the issues caused by sleep apnea.Contact us or drop by our practice today for evaluation and treatment, and we’ll get you on your path to better oral health and more restful sleep.