How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Oral Health

Sleep apnea can leave you feeling tired, anxious, and unable to concentrate during the day. Because the inability to breathe properly interrupts your sleep cycle, getting a good night's sleep can be a challenge. However, sleep apnea doesn't just prevent you from sleeping well. Sleep apnea can also cause several dental issues that damage your teeth and gums.

If you have sleep apnea, you may need the assistance of a dentist. A dentist can treat both sleep apnea and the dental issues that sleep apnea causes.

Sleep apnea causes the following dental problems.

Cavities and tooth decay

Sufferers of sleep apnea often breathe through their mouths while sleeping. Unfortunately, mouth breathing while asleep can contribute to cavities and tooth decay. Swallowing is one way that you can cut down on bad oral bacteria in your mouth. When you swallow, your saliva flushes bacteria out of your mouth. Mouth breathing dries out your mouth, reducing your ability to flush bacteria away.

Although you swallow a lot less frequently while asleep than awake, when you do swallow, you can rid your mouth of some of the bad bacteria in your oral cavity. However, dry mouth prevents you from flushing bad bacteria away. Thus, your mouth dries out and tooth decay-causing bacteria thrive. This increases your risk of cavities and tooth decay.

Gum disease

Oral bacteria also cause gum disease. This is because the plaque film that the oral bacteria thrive in contains acids that damage gum tissue. Once again, mouth breathing dries out your mouth, preventing you from removing gum disease-causing bacteria while you sleep.

You may also find that you have bad morning breath, as oral bacteria give off an unpleasant smell due to sulfur compounds produced by oral bacteria.

TMJ disorders

Sleeping with your mouth open all night can cause TMJ (temporomandibular) disorder. Everybody has two TMJ joints that connect their mandibular (lower) jaw to their skull. Sleep apnea can affect the TMJ joints, leaving you with a jaw that clicks or locks in place at times. You may also suffer from headaches and jaw pain.


Some sleep apnea sufferers suffer from sleep apnea-connected bruxism or nighttime grinding. Bruxism can damage both your teeth and gum tissue since you cannot control the pressure exerted by your jaw when you’re asleep.

If you believe that you have sleep apnea, your oral health may be at risk. Book an appointment with your dentist soon. A dentist can help to identify any oral problems caused by sleep apnea. In addition, some dentists can provide you with an oral mouthpiece that can reposition your jaw while you sleep and open up your airways.