The Science of Sleep Apnea: How Your Dentist Can Help You Rest Easy

by | May 11, 2022 | General Dentistry, Making Changes

Do you find yourself feeling exhausted after a night of tossing and turning? Do you get a full eight hours in bed and still wake up feeling groggy and tired? If a good night’s sleep has eluded you for days, weeks, or even years, it’s time to make a drastic change — and your dentist may be able to help! Yes, really. Sleep apnea, grinding teeth, and snoring are airway issues that cause many physical problems. Who better to help with such issues than the doctor that knows your mouth better than anyone else? Today, more and more dentists are investing in education and tools to help their patients breathe easier and sleep better. Read on to learn how your dentist can be your biggest ally in the fight for real rest and rejuvenation.

Why Does a Good Night’s Sleep Matter?

A chronic lack of sleep does more than just make you cranky or tired. In fact, the longer you miss critical hours of rest, the more dangerous your lack of sleep becomes. Chronic sleeplessness or poor quality sleep can result in, or is associated with:

  • Poor immunity
  • Lack of concentration
  • Exhaustion
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart problems
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Memory loss
  • Relationship issues
  • Chronic sleepiness at all hours of the day
  • Narcolepsy
  • Gum disease
  • Increased risk of cavities

What Causes Poor Sleep?

Poor sleep can be caused by a variety of factors such as stress, anxiety, or poor sleep hygiene. However, we are going to focus on a cause that we here at Sierra Smiles can help: airway issues. Our practice has dentists who treat patients with airway disorders, from minor snoring to obstructive sleep apnea. Common causes of poor sleep:


Snoring is caused by the narrowing of your airway during sleep. As you rest, the tissues in your throat relax. As your sleeping body pulls in air through this narrow space composed of lax tissue, it can create the unpleasant sound we all know as snoring. Snoring can be a huge sleep killer. Sometimes it is simply a matter of the person snoring so loudly that they wake themselves from their sleep. Other times, sleep can be disrupted if a partner must constantly awaken the snorer to change position and stop the snoring.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes the sufferer to temporarily stop breathing while they are sleeping. This lack of oxygen, even when the pause is brief, can cause many problems for apnea sufferers. Even if they are not conscious of it, their body is waking repeatedly.A person with sleep apnea not only suffers from poor rest when their lack of breathing wakes them up, they are also more likely to struggle with some of the issues listed above, like poor concentration, irritability, increased risk of diabetes and heart issues, and much more.

Mouth Breathing

While this condition is typically resolved during childhood with the help of an airway device, it can also impact adults who were never treated for the problem. Mouth breathing occurs when an individual is unable to gain adequate air through the nose alone. This can be a big problem. We rely heavily on nasal breathing to get oxygen into our bodies. Mouth breathing just doesn’t pack the same punch as nasal breathing. Not only that, breathing through your open mouth increases oral conditions like gum disease, dry mouth, and cavities.

Mouth Pain

It’s hard enough to sleep when all the conditions are right for a night of rest. But when you add pain into the mix, it gets a whole lot harder — especially dental pain. While you might be able to take a pain reliever for sore limbs or change position to adjust your aching back, oral pain is almost impossible to ignore. Patients with untreated gum disease, cracked crowns, or severe cavities may find themselves staring at the ceiling, longing for a solution.

How Your Dentist Can Help with Sleep and Airway Issues

A dentist who is trained in dental sleep medicine can help you with pain or airway issues that negatively impact your sleep. Starting with the most obvious, your dentist can help you solve issues associated with mouth pain, such as treating gum disease, filling cavities, or providing other treatments.

For apnea, snoring or mouth breathing, your dentist can provide you with advanced devices or customized oral appliances to help you breathe better while sleeping. An oral device does not mean the traditional CPAP machine with tubes and limited movement. Depending on your treatment plan, your device will be designed to fit your mouth without hindering your ability to shift position or roll over. Even better, your custom appliance is silent — and not just because you’ve stopped snoring. With quality sleep, you’ll be more alert, reduce your risk of chronic illness and improve your mental health, all with the help of your dentist!

Reclaim those Sweet Dreams with Sierra Smiles

At Sierra Smiles, we offer supportive services to help you get a better night’s sleep. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help you, give us a call. We would love to meet you!