The ABCs of Advanced Dentistry: Airway, Bruxism and Craniofacial Pain

It has become increasingly clear that there is a link between sleep apnea (airway), bruxism and craniofacial pain, in some patients and dentists should be knowledgeable in all three areas. Most dentists are not knowledgeable or well-versed in dental sleep medicine, etiologies of bruxism or craniofacial pain conditions. For this reason many dentists are unable to recognize the risk of sleep apnea, let alone manage patients with oral appliances.

The same goes for craniofacial pain and bruxism. While bruxism is often more noticeable, it is often overlooked. By understanding the unique connections between the airway, bruxism, craniofacial pain and other conditions, dentists can open their practice to more services for diagnosis and treatment options for their patients. Here are the ABCs of advanced dentistry are Airway, Bruxism and Craniofacial Pain.

Airway (Sleep Apnea)

Dental practices are in a unique position to identify patients at risk for conditions involving the airway, such as sleep disordered breathing (SDB). There are many levels of diagnosis a patient may receive once testing has been completed to evaluate a suspect compromised airway, which is where continuing education comes into play. Understanding the airway and how it can affect a patient’s sleeping patterns due to sleep apnea and other sleep disordered breathing conditions is vital in maintaining your patients’ health and improving service offerings.

Bruxism

The gnashing and grinding of the teeth that occurs without a functional purpose is called Bruxism, which can cause a lot of problems for our patients. Whether a patient has a nervous habit, is experiencing stress or is unknowingly grinding their teeth at night, bruxism can cause a lot of damage to not only their teeth, but their overall health as well. Due to the breakage of dental restorations, tooth damage, induction of temporal headaches and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) can occur.

Craniofacial Pain (TMD)

And now it comes full circle with craniofacial pain. Covering a wide spectrum of symptoms, Craniofacial pain can be exhibited in many areas of the head and neck. In particular, a majority of craniofacial pain complications can be associated with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Because of this, an essential part of routine dental examinations for all patients should include evaluation for TMD. This includes the gold standard for the diagnosis of TMD, which is based on history, clinical examination, and imaging when appropriate.

There appears to be a relationship apparent in some individuals between the airway, bruxism and craniofacial pain. While it is not found in every patient, there still remain some individuals that require further attention because the connection seems apparent. As a dentist, it is important to understand that clenching or grinding of one’s teeth can be a way for the brain to protect itself from suffocation during sleep.

Each condition can be a sign for a deeper problem, but what do you do about it? Educate yourself. The more you know, the more you can help your patients if this apparent connection arises in various cases. And, while it might not occur in every case, it is vital that we understand it for those certain individuals suffering from all three conditions.  

Infographic: Sleep apnea places stress on the heart

Sleep apnea places stress on the heart, which is never a good thing. By treating sleep apnea, you can help protect your patients from hypertension, coronary artery disease, cardiac arrhythmia, congestive heart failure and sudden death. Sleep apnea’s stress on the heart should not go ignored.

Take a look at the infographic below to learn more about sleep apnea and stress on the heart. Feel free to share the infographic with your patients so they too can better learn about this stress on their heart.

 

Sleep apnea places stress on the heart, but by providing treatment, you can continue to protect your patients. Contact my office today to learn more about this stress and how you can help.

The negative effects of sleep apnea on medical conditions

Untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has so many negative effects on various medical conditions. You might have heard it already and shared this information with your patients, but untreated OSA can be deadly. By providing your patients with up-to-date information on the negative effects of sleep apnea and the importance of treatment, you can help them take charge of their health and well-being.

The infographic below can be shared with your patients or hung up in your office to share more information about the negative effects of sleep apnea on various medical conditions.

 

By providing your patients with this information, you can help them better understand the negative effects of sleep apnea on their overall health. These medical conditions should not be ignored. Contact me today if you have further questions on the medical conditions connected to sleep apnea and how you can help your patients.

Less than 6 hours of sleep can hurt blood vessels

If our patients are not getting enough sleep, it can lead to health problems. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, there is a potential link between getting 6 hours of sleep a night and atherosclerotic lesions–the buildup of cholesterol in the wall of your blood vessel–in different blood vessels of the body.

This buildup can keep growing larger, progressively narrowing the vessel. Picture reducing a four lane highway to three, two, one or even no lanes. That is what happens to blood vessels when patients get 6 hours of sleep or less a night.

What happens to the blood vessel?

When the blood vessel gets too narrow, it can no longer provide enough blood and oxygen to whatever parts of the body depend on the blood vessel. This might be your heart, your brain, your kidney or any other part of your body. Plaque can also break off and travel through your bloodstream, which can continue to cause further harm to your health and well-being.

There is a growing body of evidence that less and worse sleep could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. When you sleep, that is the time for your body to heal and restore itself, which can include fixing the damage in your blood vessel walls.

How this factors in with sleep

The researchers used statistical analysis to determine if there was an association between sleep length or quality, and the presence of atherosclerotic lesions. The results were not good for those individuals who only sleep for a short period of time.

For those who got less than six hours of sleep a night were 27 percent more likely to have atherosclerotic lesions in various arteries than those who got seven to eight hours of sleep a night. The 20 percent with the worst quality of sleep were those who woke up the most and had the most movement in their sleep. These individuals were 34 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis compared to others who got better sleep.

It is important that we help our patients get a better night’s sleep to ensure their overall health and well-being.