YOUR DENTIST AND A BETTER SLEEP
So, why would you see a dentist if you don’t sleep well?
Most people have a good rapport with their dentist, and many go to a dentist’s office regularly (people generally only go to their doctors because they’re already ill).
Some dentists who have taken advanced training in this area, understand the importance of not only healthy sleep, but its effects on their patient’s oral and general health AND their patient’s dental work too.
Unfortunately ‘dental sleep medicine’ (DSM) is still in its (relative) infancy and some dentists have only done a short course or two as they don’t yet regularly teach it in dental schools. As a profession we are at the beginning of an exciting time that will have great value to all.
Many doctors have a very poor understanding of sleep and sleep disorders, as traditionally, medical training is inadequate in this area. Unless you’re lucky, many won’t have time to discuss options either, and may resort to the prescription pad.
There is no doubt that we need to advocate for our health these days, but we need to know a little about the problem so we know what questions to ask and why we’re asking them.
Following is a list of questions that can be associated with problems having (and sometimes related, even caused) by your dentist – so here your dentist would be your first “port of call”. Your dentist can’t diagnose or make medical conditions, but they can recognise issues that need to be followed up on and may be able to recognise the shortcomings of things that may have provided you, unknowingly worsening a pre-existing problem.
Your dental condition, symptoms and findings overlap sleep problems in many ways which is why your dentist should be part of your highly trained “Better Sleep Team”.
The signs and symptoms shown may often be associated with Sleep Disordered Breathing (primarily Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Snoring) which may lead to jaw and ear problems. They may mimic dental problems or reflect underlying medical problems, your dentist is trained to recognise these, if they are unable to do so, you may need to seek specialist dental or medical advice.
People tend not to look for things when they don’t know they are there – or don’t know where to look!
Do you suffer from Jaw joint pain (pain in or near your ears, in your temples, jaw joints, cheeks or face? Jaw joint problems (TMD) are often associated with sleep disorders, especially obstructive sleep apnea and snoring. In this case associated can mean cause, be caused by, or be found in association. This is a reason that the dentist should be part of your “Better Sleep Team”.
Various pain (both local and general) conditions may be associated with poor sleep or indeed be associated with jaw misalignment. It is well accepted that if you don’t sleep well, your pain threshold goes down, if you experience more pain, you don’t sleep well.
Frequent Jaw joint clicking, popping, or grating sound when opening or closing the mouth indicates a lack of correct function which may appear to go away by itself – alas what usually happens is that the soft tissue causing the “click” becomes destroyed and while the sound “improves” long term micro-trauma takes over. Micro trauma is physical damage that although not as “immediate” as acute trauma, takes place over a long time [chronically] and may result in equal or worse injury.
Other signs and symptoms of TMD such as earache, congestion and/or noises (tinnitus.) may also be seen in association with sleep disordered breathing, hence the link between your dentist and sleep. Vertigo (Dizziness) and tension type headache, especially sides and top of the head and base of skull and neck, are often overlooked as having nothing to do with the dentist! Clearly they have!
Clenching or grinding the teeth, either known or reported are areas that have a major impact on your dental health as well as your general health. Just as dental decay and gum disease were the primary dental problems of yesterday, excessive tooth wear is becoming that of today. This damage does NOT have to be accepted as normal, nor should it be ignored or inappropriately treated by “grinding guards” as it so often is – frequently aggravating the unerluing and associated medical condition!