Many sufferers worry whether there is a link between sleep apnea and tooth decay. There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the subject, with some arguing that there is a link, but others disputing the fact. So let’s have a closer look at the facts.
Sleep apnea is a relatively common condition with estimates varying between 12 and 18 million Americans being affected. Sufferers frequently sleep with their mouth open. This can lead to their saliva drying out and they wake up in the morning with a dry mouth. In fact it is not unusual for sufferers to go to bed with a glass of water besides their bed.
Saliva has a protective effect on the teeth. It keeps the acidity of the mouth regulated and helps protect against bacterial infection. In the absence of saliva the teeth are less well protected against the bacteria that cause tooth decay (dental caries). These bacteria can exist in plaque and they cause damage by releasing acids that breakdown the protective enamel of the tooth.
So how can you try to prevent these problems? Of course some people will say, “Just close your mouth”, but this is easier said than done. First you should try to find out if there is a particular position that causes your mouth to stay open. Some people find that sleeping on their back tends to make their symptoms worse, so you should try sleeping on your side and see if that helps.
Practicing good oral hygiene during the day is a good idea to reduce the number of problem-causing bacteria in your mouth. This means brushing with a good fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. This should be supplemented with dental flossing and using an antiseptic mouthwash. These products will get to areas that are difficult to reach with your toothbrush.
Once your sleep apnea has been brought under control by a medical intervention such as CPAP or surgery, you may find that you are less likely to sleep with your mouth open.