Posts for tag: common symptoms
Dentistry has ventured into the new area of sleep medicine by helping snorers — and their exasperated sleeping partners — with custom-made anti-snoring devices. These oral appliances, which resemble orthodontic retainers or sports mouthguards, keep the snorer's airway clear and the bedroom quiet. To see how they work, you have to understand the mechanics of snoring.
Snoring occurs when the upper airway (back of the throat) becomes blocked by the tongue or other soft-tissue structures, such as large tonsils or a long soft palate. The vibrating of these obstacles creates the sound we call snoring.
Snoring is often worse when sleeping on one's back because that position encourages the lower jaw to fall back and the tongue to close off the airway. This is where Oral Appliance Therapy comes in. These custom-fitted devices are designed to keep the upper airway open during sleep by pulling the lower jaw forward, which in turn brings the tongue away from the throat. Dentists, and our office in particular, are the only source for Oral Appliance Therapy.
People who snore should have a thorough examination to rule out Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a potentially dangerous condition in which airflow can be cut off completely for 10 or more seconds (“a” – without; “pnea” – breath), reducing blood-oxygen levels. Chronic, loud snoring is a common finding with OSA.
Please remember that sleep is an integral part of health and well-being. In fact, we spend about a third of our lives doing it. If you are snoring or have any sleep-related breathing disorders that are waking you or your bed partner, be sure to tell our office. There are plenty of examples of the havoc wreaked by sleep-deprived individuals. Remember the Exxon Valdez?
To learn more about the topic of oral appliance therapy, please see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry.”
If you see blood when you brush or floss your teeth, it generally indicates a problem with your oral health. You may think you are brushing too hard, but this is not usually why gums bleed. The usual culprit is dental plaque.
Plaque is the sticky, whitish film of bacteria that forms on your teeth every day. If you brush regularly, you probably remove most of it — but some may remain behind and accumulate where your teeth meet your gums, particularly between your teeth. As the bacteria build up, along with by-products of their metabolism (the chemical reactions that maintain their lives), they cause inflammation, called gingivitis, in the adjacent gums.
Bleeding gums are an early symptom of gingivitis. Continuing contact with plaque at the gum line can cause your gum tissue to separate from nearby teeth, creating pockets in which the inflammation becomes even worse. The process leads to periodontal disease (“peri” – meaning around, “odont” – tooth). The increasing infection can eat away the bone that anchors the teeth, leading to possible tooth loss. Periodontal disease is not an uncommon problem. About 90% of the population has bleeding gums at some time or another, and approximately 10% go on to develop periodontal disease.
When you lose bone around your teeth, the gums separate from the tooth and “pockets” form between your teeth and gums. The inflammation and infection may continue within the pockets even if your gums have stopped bleeding when you brush. That's why it is important to have regular dental exams — to check up on and stop periodontal disease before it has a chance to cause serious damage.
There may also be other reasons for bleeding gums that have to do with your general state of health. Women who have elevated levels of hormones caused by birth control pills or pregnancy may experience an increased response to plaque that makes their gums bleed more easily. Increased bleeding in your gums can also be caused by some diseases or as a side effect of some medications.
The most important way to prevent bleeding gums is to learn proper brushing and flossing techniques so that you effectively remove plaque from your teeth on a daily basis. If you are not sure you are using the right techniques, make an appointment and have us demonstrate at your next dental visit.
With all the best intentions, some plaque may remain. Plaque that is allowed to stay on your teeth hardens into a substance called tartar or calculus. This must be removed periodically with a professional cleaning by me or by our hygienist.
With not too much effort, you can ensure that your teeth are clean and plaque free, and your healthy gums no longer bleed.
We are often asked about the role the tongue plays with bad breath or halitosis, as it is known medically. The truth is that everyone will experience it at some point in life; however, there can be a number of reasons for its cause. Some of these include:
- Consuming odorous foods and/or drinks such as coffee, onions and garlic. This is usually just a temporary condition that can be resolved by brushing and flossing your teeth and using mouthwash. Also consider chewing gum containing xylitol, a sugar-free gum that both promotes saliva flow and reduces tooth decay.
- Diabetes, a disease caused by a faulty metabolism of sugar, as well as diseases of the liver and kidneys can also cause bad breath. Be sure to always let all your health care professionals know if you have any unusual symptoms or you been diagnosed with any of these or other illnesses.
- Poor oral hygiene, which causes gingivitis (gum disease), is one of the most common reasons for bad breath. And if your gum disease is progressive, you could eventually lose your teeth.
- If you use tobacco and regularly drink large amounts of alcohol, you are dramatically increasing the likelihood of having halitosis.
- And lastly, if you do not drink enough water to maintain proper hydration, you can develop bad breath.
There are more than 600 types of bacteria found in the average mouth, many of which can cause bad breath. And the back of the tongue is where these bacteria typically produce Volatile Sulfur Compounds (VSC), the culprits responsible for the worst odors attributed to halitosis.
As for cleaning your tongue, there are two common methods. You can use your toothbrush to brush your tongue, or you can use a tongue-scraper. The latter can generally be purchased at a drug or discount store. The keys to remember are that a clean, healthy tongue should be pink in color and not have a yellow or brownish coating.
If you wake yourself by snoring or have been told by others that you snore, you should share this fact with us during your next visit. Why? Many people are shocked to learn that their dentist is a vital resource for treating snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a condition that occurs when the upper airway (back of your throat) is blocked or obstructed causing significant airflow disruption or even no airflow whatsoever for 10 seconds or more.
Self Test For Sleep Apnea
While your responses to the following questions are not a diagnosis for OSA, they can be warning signs that you may have OSA or another condition that is impacting your sleep.
- Are you a loud habitual snorer?
- Has anyone ever witnessed you holding your breath, gasping for air or even choking while asleep?
- Do you regularly feel un-refreshed or tired even after waking from eight or more hours of sleep?
- Do you find yourself easily falling asleep throughout your day at work or at home?
- Do you suffer from poor concentration or judgment, memory loss, irritability and/or depression from lack of sleep?
- Are you 15 pounds over the normal weight range for your height and/or does you neck measure more than 17 inches around if you are male and 16 inches if you are female?
If you answered, “yes” to any of the above questions, you should share your responses to all of these questions with both your physician and us so that you can receive a thorough examination to address your sleep concerns. And if you are diagnosed with OSA, we can help with specific oral treatment options that may work best for you.
Research has revealed that over 12 million Americans suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a condition that occurs when the upper airway (tissues at the back of the mouth and throat) collapse causing significant airflow disruption or even no airflow whatsoever for 10 seconds or more. It can leave you feeling tired, depressed, irritable, as well as cause memory loss and poor concentration. But, did you know that we can help treat your sleep apnea?
The primary method dentists who are trained in sleep medicine use to treat OSA is through the use of an oral appliance. Similar in look to an orthodontic retainer or sports mouthguard, oral appliances are designed to maintain an opened, unobstructed, upper airway during sleep. And while there are many different oral appliances available in the marketplace, less than 20 have been approved through the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for treating sleep apnea. The key to success is to avoid those over-the-counter (OTC), generic mouthguards and instead use a professionally made and custom-fitted oral appliance, made from a precise models of your teeth and mouth. They are best at keeping your airway open and preventing the muscles and soft tissues from sagging down when relaxed during sleep. Other advantages of custom-fit oral appliances are that they can reposition your lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula (the tissue in the back of the throat that dangles like a punching bag); stabilize your lower jaw and tongue; and increase the muscle tone of your tongue.
But Is Treatment Really That Important?
Absolutely! If undiagnosed and/or left untreated, sleep apnea can be life threatening. It can cause heart attacks, strokes, impotence, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and heart disease — many of which can kill you.
Want To Learn More?
To learn more about sleep apnea, read the Dear Doctor article, “Snoring & Sleep Apnea.” Or if you are ready for a thorough examination and to discuss your snoring, contact us today to schedule an appointment.