5 Common Sleep Apnea Symptoms That Are Easily Overlooked

Watch out for these sleep apnea symptoms

What exactly is sleep apnea?

Often misdiagnosed and treated improperly, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that causes obstruction of the airway. Throat tissues behind the tonsils relax and drop down after you fall asleep, causing the lack of oxygen to abruptly awaken you. OSA may also be due to an abnormally large tongue that falls over the airway, obesity (as excess tissues can thicken the walls of the windpipe), or aging. 

A less common type of sleep apnea that does not involve relaxed throat tissues is called central sleep apnea (CSA). People with CSA often suffer from brain or heart problems that impair the brain’s ability to send sleep signals. Older people who never had OSA when they were younger may be diagnosed with CSA as they age.

What are some symptoms of sleep apnea?

In addition to feeling unusually tired during the day, signs of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Waking several times a night from snoring loudly or choking or gasping for air
  • Feeling depressed, irritable, and moody
  • Craving carbohydrates to compensate for lack of energy
  • Having a dry mouth in the morning
  • Developing hypertension or experiencing increased blood pressure

Combining a deteriorating quality of sleep with unhealthy eating habits frequently leads to health problems such as diabetes, chronic headaches, inability to concentrate, and a general reduction in your overall quality of life.

5 Sleep Apnea Symptoms That Are Often Overlooked

Individuals with mild to moderate OSA tend to miss these five symptoms that can impact their teeth, gums, jaw, and overall health:

1. Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD, is often diagnosed in people with OSA. When you wake because your brain isn’t getting any oxygen, it’s typical for your jaws to forcefully jerk open so you can gulp as much air as possible. This sudden, strong movement of the jaw joints may promote TMD. Studies have found that individuals with multiple sleep apnea symptoms have a 73% higher risk for TMJ disorder than those without sleep apnea symptoms.

2. Bruxism

Teeth grinding (bruxism) frequently occurs during sleep. Bruxism can cause enamel abrasion, cracked teeth, chipped teeth, and jaw pain. Research indicates that nighttime bruxism affects up to 30% of the adult population, and OSA is often associated with many of those patients as well, although the exact correlation is still unclear.

3. Mouth Breathing

Breathing through the mouth is one of the more common (but still often overlooked) symptoms of sleep apnea. Saliva contains antibacterial properties that help prevent mouth ulcers, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. If you practice good oral hygiene but start experiencing these issues, they might be caused by dry mouth and could be linked to undiagnosed sleep apnea.

4. Nighttime Heartburn

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) commonly affects people with OSA. Doctors think GERD associated with sleep apnea occurs because of being awakened multiple times throughout the night. In addition, stomach acid can eventually cause bleeding gums and tooth decay when it is consistently in contact with oral tissues.

5. Heart Palpitations

OSA has also been linked to the development of irregular heartbeat and heart palpitations. The frequent breathing interruptions caused by sleep apnea make the heart rate dip and reduce oxygen, among other things, which in turn can lead to that fluttering feeling in your chest.

Diagnosing and Treating Sleep Apnea

The best method for accurately diagnosing sleep apnea is a sleep test called a polysomnography. While you are asleep, polysomnography evaluates your heart rate, heart rhythm, brain waves, respiration, and eye movements. Doctors then use the results to determine if you have sleep apnea.

The standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is the continuous positive airway pressure machine, or CPAP. Worn over your mouth and nose at night, a CPAP mask pushes air into your airway so that there is enough pressure to prevent tissues from collapsing over your throat.

Many sleep apnea sufferers cannot wear CPAP masks due to various factors, such as ill-fitting masks, skin irritation, and claustrophobic feelings. As a result, more people are turning to oral appliances to effectively treat their sleep apnea.

Call Luminous Smiles today for a sleep apnea evaluation.

When they want the services of an American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry-accredited dentist, Newport Beach residents call Dr. Desai at Luminous Smiles to provide sleep apnea appliances, dental treatments, and cosmetic procedures to give you a beautiful, luminous smile.

Sleep apnea dental appliances can help position the lower jaw so that airway tissues do not obstruct breathing while you sleep. You don’t have to wear a mask or listen to a CPAP machine pump air into the mask. In addition, a sleep apnea appliance is comfortable to wear because Dr. Desai shapes the device to precisely fit the inside of your mouth.

Contact Luminous Smiles today to learn more about our state-of-the-art, maskless sleep apnea treatment and to see if this option is right for you.