Grosse Pointe & Shelby Township


Dental Sleep Medicine: The Link Between Sleep and Oral Health

Dental sleep medicine expert speaking with a patient.

Dentists look after your oral health, that’s no surprise. But some patients are surprised to find out that when it comes to sleeping problems, your dentist may be your best ally. If you snore or suspect you have sleep apnea, Dr. Paul Van Walleghem at Pointe Dental Group can help! As a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine and with over 25 years of experience in dental sleep medicine, he can help screen and offer solutions for your sleep apnea.

Sleep Affects Your Oral Health

Many studies have found correlations between oral health and consistently getting enough sleep. One major contributor to this is your immune system. Gum disease triggers an immune response in your mouth, and when you sleep, it allows your immune system to “recharge” and better fight off bacteria.

Being sleep-deprived can also increase your risk for developing anxiety, which leads to bruxism. Grinding your teeth in your sleep hurts your long-term oral health and leads to a variety of complications that can exacerbate dental health issues!

Canker sores are also often attributed to stress and anxiety. These annoying sores not only hurt and cause discomfort for days or weeks. Additionally, the pain from contact with a canker sore can discourage you from brushing or brushing thoroughly – leading to more sores or advancing gum disease.

What Is Dental Sleep Medicine?

Dental sleep medicine is a branch of dentistry focused on sleep issues related to disordered breathing. In many cases, these sleep disorders are the result of physiological issues in your upper airway, related to your mouth and jaw.

Snoring, obstructive sleep apnea and even bruxism are all issues that dentists educated in dental sleep medicine are trained to identify and treat. Historically, dentists have lead the way in developing solutions to snoring and sleep apnea. CPAPs and more modern oral appliances were all created with the help of doctors trained in dentistry.

Sleep Apnea & Dental Sleep Medicine

Obstructive sleep apnea is the medical term for frequent interrupted breathing while sleeping. It affects between 5 to 20 percent of adults and children can suffer from sleep apnea too, though it’s less common.

If you have sleep apnea, you likely exhibit some of the common symptoms, such as snoring, waking up in gasping for air at night or feeling chronic fatigue after a night of sleep. Before seeking treatment, you need to get an official diagnosis. Sleep studies and polysomnograms are the most effective ways to discover if your trouble sleeping is related to sleep apnea.

After you’ve been diagnosed, a dental sleep medicine expert can help with treatment. In the past, your options were often limited to the use of a CPAP machine. While these are still common, they’re no longer the only way to treat sleep apnea.

Your dentist may recommend oral appliance therapy. Unlike CPAPs, oral appliances are comfortable to wear and convenient to travel with. They work in many ways, repositioning your jaw and tongue to keep your airway open.

Sleep-Related Bruxism

Also known as nocturnal tooth grinding, sleep bruxism is the name for grinding your teeth while sleeping. Studies have been done to help understand the source of sleep bruxism, and its cause has been associated with many different factors:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Caffeine Consumption
  • Alcohol Consumption
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Fatigue
  • Snoring
  • Smoking

Nocturnal tooth grinding is a serious issue because of the damage that chronic grinding can have on your teeth. The friction and stress put on your teeth due to bruxism will wear down your teeth, destroying enamel and leaving them vulnerable to bacteria. Left untreated, you will eventually cause irreversible damage to your teeth, breaking them or causing them to even fall out.

Sleep bruxism can also be the cause of other health issues like TMJ disorders or chronic headaches. If you think you grind your teeth while asleep, schedule an appointment with a dentist experienced in dental sleep medicine, like Dr. Paul Van Walleghem.

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Concerned About Sleep Apnea or Sleep Bruxism?

Pointe Dental Group can provide you with a complete examination, answer your questions, and discuss your treatment options. Schedule an appointment with us today! New patients can receive FREE comprehensive exam and consultation, plus a full panoramic x-ray with a paid cleaning procedure (a $200 value)!

Grosse Pointe Farms: (313) 881-2480

Shelby Township: (586) 803-8300

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