The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Oral Health

man sleeping

Sleep apnea is a common and potentially serious sleep disorder that is characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep. It can have a significant impact on overall health, including oral health. In this blog, we will explore the link between sleep apnea and oral health, including how it can affect the mouth and teeth, and how good oral hygiene and treatment can help improve your health as a whole.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. These interruptions, called apneas, can last from a few seconds to several minutes and can occur up to hundreds of times per night. They are usually caused by a temporary collapse of the airway during sleep, or by the tongue or jaw. Factors such as obesity, alcohol consumption, smoking, and certain medications can also cause this to occur. Sleep apnea can lead to a range of health problems, including high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.

How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Your Oral Health?

Although sleep apnea has a clear effect on your overall health, it also causes issues with your oral health. If you are experiencing any of the issues listed below, sleep apnea could be the culprit.

Teeth Grinding (bruxism)

Oftentimes when a relaxed tongue is causing air obstruction, it causes you to unconsciously clench your jaw and grind your teeth. Although this might help you breathe better, it can also cause your teeth to wear down. Worn-down teeth can cause further damage such as decay and cavities.

Dry Mouth

Sleep apnea normally causes you to sleep with your mouth open. Breathing with your mouth open causes dry mouth. Symptoms of dry mouth include plaque, cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, infections, and mouth sores. These issues can be treated by your dentist, however, they are likely to return unless you treat the root cause.


Your temporomandibular joint, TMJ, connects your jaw to your skull on both sides of the face. Due to the movements of the mouth and jaw, those who suffer from sleep apnea can experience temporomandibular joint dysfunction. This can cause further discomfort, jaw pain, difficulty chewing, clicking, and locking of the jaw.

Who Can Get Sleep Apnea?

Anyone can develop sleep apnea, however, there are some groups of individuals who are at a higher risk.

  • Over the age of 40
  • Have congestive heart issues
  • Have had a recent stroke
  • Smoke
  • Take narcotics
  • Regularly consume alcohol
  • Nasal congestion
  • Overweight/Obese


In conclusion, sleep apnea can have a significant impact on oral health. The issues it can cause can lead to a variety of oral health problems. It is important to be aware of the link between sleep apnea and oral health and to seek treatment if you are at risk or experiencing symptoms. Addressing the root of the problem can not only improve your oral health but also your overall health and quality of life.

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