Sleep apnea is a dangerous sleep disorder that interferes with healthy breathing patterns during sleep. It is characterized by snoring, which may be so loud that it affects the sleep quality of bed partners. Having sleep apnea can put a strain on relationships, cause daytime fatigue, and even lead to other secondary conditions like depression. Worse, severe cases of sleep apnea can be life threatening.
Though snoring is a primary symptom of sleep apnea, not all people who snore actually have sleep apnea. As much as 50 percent of Americans snore at some time, whether occasionally or chronically. However, only 20 percent of American adults have sleep apnea. So how do you know the difference? Harmless snoring does not interfere with breathing patterns. Sleep apnea, on the other hand, causes breathing cessations and sometimes ‘gasping’ during sleep.
You may need to see a doctor if you or your partner have been awakened by your chronic snoring and/or gasping for air. Though this condition can be very dangerous, your doctor can help you discover ways of managing sleep apnea and protecting healthy breathing during sleep.
Your doctor’s first goal will be to determine whether your snoring is benign or a symptom of sleep apnea. This may be determined by speaking with you and your partner about your symptoms. If you do not have a partner who can confirm snoring or breathing interruptions, your doctor may request a sleep study.
There are many ways of treating the symptoms of sleep apnea. This may include conservative approaches, such as a new sleeping position or the use of an oral appliance. If your apnea symptoms are severe or conservative treatments are not working, you may be prescribed a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) to open the airway. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Keep in mind that a diagnosis of sleep apnea is not always permanent. Many patients find that losing weight can be an effective way of opening the airway during sleep.
Preventative care is the foundation of dentistry. The American Dental Association recommends visiting your dentist regularly, usually about twice yearly, for full cleanings, examinations, and consultations for potential treatment. Professional dental cleanings help remove built-up plaque that is not removable using conventional brushing and flossing. Often, dentists are also capable of identifying potential problems that patients are not yet able to see or feel. When you maintain regular preventative dental appointments, you can stave off decay and gum disease, as well as identify the beginnings of oral health problems before they become severe.
Did you know…
that Americans are less and less likely to visit the dentist as they age? Data from the Centers for Disease Control reports that only 57 percent of Americans over age 65 visited the dentist in 2010. That compares to about 61 percent adults under age 65 and about 79 percent of children ages 2 to 17. Nonetheless, it is important to visit the dentist for cleanings and exams regardless of how long has passed since your most recent dental appointment.
Yes. Even if you brush and floss after every meal and before bed, bacteria-harboring plaque can accumulate in the tiniest crevices, grooves and pits. Overtime, the teeth will begin to decay in those areas, which may result in pain and partial or total tooth loss.
Your cleaning and consultation will consist of a visible examination of the teeth and gums. If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, you may also require x-rays for a more comprehensive view of your teeth. You’ll also consult with your dentist about any oral health problems or questions that you may have. Then a dental hygienist will clean your teeth using special instruments to remove hardened plaque. Finally, your teeth will be polished before your dentist discusses any treatment recommendations they may have for you.
In between dental cleanings and consultations, be sure to maintain good oral habits at home. This includes daily flossing and brushing after meals. It’s also important to drink fluoridated water and use a fluoridated toothpaste.
Preventative dentistry is about more than just visiting your dentist twice yearly for an exam and thorough cleaning. In fact, the majority of your preventative care is done at-home as a part of your normal hygienic routine. Many residents use manual toothbrushes to remove debris and plaque from their teeth. However, electric brushes have become widely popular in recent years, leaving some to wonder whether one type is better than the other.
Did you know…
the American Dental Association does not lean toward one type of brush over the other? It does, however, acknowledge that people with upper body mobility restrictions may better benefit from an electric toothbrush instead of a manual brush. Regardless of which type you decide is right for you, the ADA recommends that all brushes be soft-bristled so as to avoid abrasions that can lead to decay and receding gum lines.
You can effectively brush your teeth with either a manual toothbrush or an electric one. However, the rapid movements of motorized versions may be more effective at removing plaque from the teeth and gum line. If you have questions about which toothbrush is best for you, speak with your dentist about it at your next visit. He or she may recommend an electric brush with an oscillating head or a brush that includes a timer to let you know how long to brush.
Regardless of whether you choose an electric brush or a manual brush, it should be easy for you to maneuver in your mouth and behind your back teeth. If the head is too big, it may not be effectively removing plaque from your teeth.
Yes. Your toothbrush should be replaced at least once every three to four months or whenever you notice fraying. However, most electric toothbrushes come with interchangeable heads. In other words, you won’t need to replace the entire device – only the brush itself.
Flossing is an important part of an oral hygiene routine, but research suggests that fewer than half of Americans do so daily. Flossing is simple and only takes an extra couple of minutes per day. Developing a healthy habit of flossing can prevent tooth decay and gum disease, and it may allow you to keep more of your natural teeth as you age. So what is the most effective means of flossing?
Need some extra tips?
The American Dental Association recommends using a strand of floss approximately 18 inches in length. It is important to only use clean floss as you move between the teeth. One of the easiest ways of doing this is by looping each end of the floss around your fingers and beginning to floss with the area closest to one end. If you have never flossed, be sure to ask your dentist for a quick in-person tutorial at your next check-up.
Yes. The ADA recommends that everyone floss in order to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Even if you have restorations, such as crowns or veneers, good oral hygiene is essential for prolonging their use and maintaining your oral health.
You may not experience immediate results from flossing, but over time, your habit will pay off. Flossing can prevent tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss – all of which can be highly inconvenient and expensive to treat. A piece of floss that costs just pennies could save you thousands of dollars later on.
Yes. In addition to flossing, you should be adopting proper brushing techniques and visiting your dentist at least twice per year for examinations and professional dental cleanings.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that has been shown to help strengthen teeth in children and also prevent decay in people of all ages. Topical fluoride, in particular is helpful for promoting oral health. The American Dental Association has publicly endorsed the use of fluoride for the prevention of dental caries, as has the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.
Did you know…
that you might be drinking fluoride every day without knowing it? Many communities add fluoride to the public water supply in an effort to promote better dental health. You can find out if there is fluoride in your tap water by contacting your local water utility. Keep in mind that if your primary source of drinking water is bottled, you may not be getting fluoride. You can contact your bottle water company or manufacturer to find out if fluoride is in your water. If not, speak with your dentist about getting professional fluoride treatments.
You may need fluoride treatments if your drinking water is not fluoridated or if you are experiencing certain symptoms, such as receding gums. Fluoride treatments can also provide oral support and prevent decay if you wear orthodontic braces or are taking medications that cause dry mouth.
Fluoride treatments are painless and can be administered in your dentist’s office at your twice-yearly check-ups and cleanings. Your dentist will distribute fluoridated gel, foam or varnish into a tray and place it over your teeth. The treatment takes only a few minutes and is only required between one and four times per year.
Yes. The ADA recommends supplementing your fluoridated drinking water or fluoride treatments with a fluoridated toothpaste.