Effects of Sleep Apnea on Dental Health

Dentist at workSleep apnea is a term used to describe a condition in which a patient stops breathing for 10 seconds or more during sleep. A primary indicator of the disorder is snoring. However, there are other not so obvious symptoms that can manifest.

Your dentist in Chicago is in a better position to diagnose sleep disorder than other health professionals. Below are some oral health issues associated with sleep apnea.


Bruxism refers to teeth grinding. In sleep apnea patients, the jaws usually tense as the teeth grind. The tension transmits a signal to the brain, which triggers the patient to wake up and breath. While occasional grinding means no harm, regular grinding causes oral health complications, such as worn out surfaces and receding or inflamed gums. In chronic cases, loosening, fractures, breakage, and loss of teeth may occur.


Saliva acts as a protectant and is responsible for maintaining appropriate pH levels in the mouth. People with sleep apnea tend to sleep with an open mouth. As a result, saliva evaporates, leaving a dry mouth with increased acidity. The dryness makes the teeth susceptible to cavity-causing bacteria while the increased acidity levels result in a breakdown of enamel. What follows is a spike of cavities, increased plaque, gum disease, and mouth sores.

Scalloped Tongue Edges

When breathing becomes difficult, a person subconsciously pushes their tongue into their teeth to open up the airway. The inflicted force leads to indentations on the sides. A study in the National Library of Medicine points out that a scalloped tongue is an indicator of obstructive sleep apnea, and that its presence should prompt further evaluation of the patient.

Scheduling appointments with your dentist is essential, as the visits can help identify dental health issues that are related to sleep apnea. The practitioner will then recommend a sleep study and use the result as a guide on what further action is necessary.