I have a question. I have sleep apnea and have known about it for some time, and have also struggled to keep my gums healthy, but when I recently saw my hygienist, she told me my sleep apnea is the reason I have gum disease. She said there is a correlation between the two. My dentist “conveniently” offers treatment at his office and I kind of feel that they are just telling me that my sleep apnea is the root of my gum problems so they can sell me a sleep apnea device. I really do take care of my mouth, and I floss and brush all the time. How seriously should I consider the hygienist’s comments?
Donna, Tucson, AZ
It’s good to do your homework and get answers when it comes to decisions about your health. In this case, your hygienist’s comments were sound. There is a correlation between periodontal (gum) disease and sleep apnea. According to some studies, somewhere between one-half to two-thirds of people who have sleep apnea also struggle with periodontal disease.
What happens is that people with sleep apnea typically breathe through their mouth. This causes saliva to dry so bacteria grows more abundantly. The gums are also affected by the decrease in moisture. These lead to an upset of balance in the mouth and create a perfect scenario for periodontal disease to begin. Even with great brushing and flossing habits, it’s difficult to keep your gums healthy when you are continually breathing through your mouth. Those with allergies who have to breathe through their mouths because of congestion often have similar problems.
There are specially designed mouthwashes and toothpastes for dry mouth and they will help to retain moisture in your mouth, but that’s kind of a band-aid for the underlying problem. Not only can sleep apnea affect your mouth, but your overall health. It can affect your memory and thinking, can cause a sense of never-ending fatigue and affect your overall sense of well-being, but left unchecked can lead to other more serious health problems.
There are a few options for treating sleep apnea. Mild cases can be managed with a simple oral device, probably the one your hygienist suggested. If you have other concerns or questions, you can also ask your dentist for more information or consult with your general doctor.
You may be interested in learning more about an affordable dentist.
This post is sponsored by Enfield dentist Dr. William Cummiskey at Generations Dental Care.