Are snoring and sleep apnea the same thing?
The short answer is "No." Snoring is what we call the sound that leads to elbow jabs from our partners in the middle of the night. That soft rumble is caused by obstructed breathing, and can be a symptom of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea happens when your airway muscles relax and block off your airway. Your breathing might pause for 10 seconds or more until your reflexes kick in and jolt you so you start breathing again. With roughly 22 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea, that's a lot of lost ZZZs.
Sleep apnea doesn't just hurt the quality of our sleep, it can lead to serious health risks. Studies have linked sleep apnea with issues like type 2 diabetes, strokes, and even heart attacks. Our clinicians at Wally care about sleep apnea because it has serious effects on our oral health as well.
How does snoring, sleep apnea, or any airway issue affect my oral health?
If you snore while you sleep, that means your mouth is open to help you breathe. Mouth breathing leads to dry mouth, and dry mouth makes our saliva acidic and harbors bad bacteria, can cause a whole slew of problems like:
- Bad breath
- Increased plaque
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Increased cavities
- Burning mouth syndrome
That's why it's important to let your dentist and hygienist know if you have been diagnosed with a Sleep-Related Breathing Disorder (SRBD) like sleep apnea.
What can a dentist do about snoring or sleep apnea?
While your dentist can't diagnose sleep apnea, they are trained to look for Sleep Related Breathing Disorders (SRBD) airway issues. Some common signs your dentist will look for are:
- Bruxism (grinding your teeth)
- Constricted arch formation
- Gum inflammation
- Daytime sleepiness
If your dentist suspects you are struggling with a SRBD they will refer you to have a sleep study.
What can I do to keep my oral health in check if I have sleep apnea or snore in my sleep?
The first thing you can do is address dry mouth, starting from home. Sarah Clark, one of Wally's hygienists, shares some of her favorite products for tackling dry mouth that comes from sleep apnea or snoring:
"Xylimelts are lozenges that adhere inside the mouth and slowly release helpful ingredients to relieve dry mouth throughout the night. They stick to the gum tissue and slowly dissolve to release xylitol which helps moisten the mouth throughout the night.
"Another great option is Moisyn spray. Spray a little inside the cheeks and tongue before bed to reduce bacteria formation, and to provide moisture through the night. Add another spritz when you wake up to feel instant relief from a dry mouth in the morning."
To help open your airway, try finding a pillow that allows your chin to point up to the ceilings rather than down towards your chest while you sleep.
During the day, try chewing sugarless gum and reduce the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink. When you prevent dry mouth you'll balance the pH of your saliva and reduce bacteria and acids from building up in your mouth.
If you snore or have sleep apnea and want to take a proactive approach to your oral health Wally's hygienists are ready to help. Try our free 30-day trial and connect with one of our hygienists today about what you can do to get rid of dry mouth.