Snoring & Dental Health- How Are They Linked?

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Snoring & Dental Health- How Are They Linked?Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Snoring, Sleep Health & Your Teeth
  2. Causes of Snoring
  3. Sleep Apnea & Dental Health
  4. Risk Factors
  5. Dental Problems & Snoring
  6. Treatment Options
  7. How Your Dentist Can Help
  8. Frequently Asked Questions
  9. References

Snoring is extremely common. Just over half of men and just under half of women snore.

Snoring can impact the quality of your sleep and also negatively affect your dental health. It is often related to sleep apnea, which can cause a variety of oral health issues, including bad breath and dry mouth. These can lead to additional problems with your teeth and gums.

Treating sleep apnea can minimize snoring and help you to feel more rested. Talk to your dentist about snoring and/or sleep apnea to improve your dental health.

Snoring, sleep health & your teeth

Snoring is a somewhat raspy noise that happens in your sleep when your airway is partly obstructed or blocked. It can be something that happens only in specific circumstances, such as when you have a cold, or it can be a chronic condition.

Snoring can range from mild and barely audible to significant, causing sleep disturbances for both you and anyone else sleeping near you.

Healthy sleep is important for your physical and mental health. Your sleep health can directly impact your quality of life.

Snoring can cause sleep deficiencies that can increase the risk for chronic health problems over time. Snoring can also lead to poor oral health and issues with your teeth.

Causes of snoring

When you sleep, the muscles in your tongue, throat, and soft palate (roof of your mouth) all relax. If these muscles relax too much, they can partially block your airway. This causes the soft tissues in your throat to vibrate, creating the snoring noise, when the air flows through.

There are numerous reasons that your airway can become obstructed in your sleep, ranging from sleep position and neck anatomy to nasal congestion and medical conditions.

Dental issues, such as teeth grinding, can be related to snoring.

Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your lower jaw to your skull. A temporomandibular disorder (TMD) can cause your jaw to shift position in your sleep and your tongue to sit further back in your mouth. This can then partially block your airway and cause snoring.

Sleep apnea & dental health

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of sleep apnea. It causes the upper airway to narrow or partially collapse during sleep, which then obstructs the airway either partially or completely. This can cause pauses in breathing and snoring during sleep.

OSA is an extremely common condition that can have dangerous health consequences, including hypertension, stroke, and heart failure.

Not everyone that snores has sleep apnea, but snoring is very common in those that do, the American Dental Association (ADA) reports. Men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women. Additional risk factors include the following:

  • Being overweight
  • Being over the age of 40
  • Having a large tongue, large tonsils, or a small jaw
  • Nasal obstructions caused by sinus problems, allergies, or a deviated septum
  • Having a family history of sleep apnea

Daytime tiredness, difficulties concentrating, and a poor short-term memory can signal sleep issues, such as sleep apnea. Your dentist may also notice dental signs of sleep apnea which can include the following:

  • Dry mouth in the morning
  • Teeth grinding
  • Cheek biting
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Enlarged tongue or tonsils
  • Headaches
  • Redness in the throat
  • Periodontal disease
  • Jaw pain

Risk factors for snoring

There are many different reasons that could cause you to snore besides sleep apnea. Certain risk factors make you more likely to snore.

  • Sedative medications and alcohol: These substances can relax the muscles that support your airway and make you more likely to snore.
  • Anatomy of your neck and head: If you have a small jaw, large tongue or tonsils, growths such as polyps in the nose, or a deviated septum, these anatomical abnormalities can increase the odds for snoring.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoke can irritate and inflame the upper airway, which may contribute to snoring.
  • Sleep position: Lying on your back can make you more apt to snore. Gravity can cause the tissue around your airway to be pulled down and narrowed.
  • Nasal congestion: Allergies, infection, and dry air can cause your nose to become stuffy, which obstructs the airway and can make you snore.
  • Older age and aging: Muscles weaken with age, and this can include the ones in and around your mouth and airway. This weakness can contribute to snoring.
  • Obesity: Extra tissue caused by excess weight around the neck can constrict your airway and make you likely to snore.
  • Hypothyroidism: When your thyroid gland doesn’t function to its full capacity, it does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This can lead to a variety of health issues, including a higher risk for snoring.
  • Being male: Men tend to snore more regularly than women do.

Dental problems & snoring

Snoring can be related to dental issues. Snoring and sleep apnea can also cause dental and oral health issues.

Snoring can make you more likely to grind your teeth, for example. Teeth grinding can cause you to wear your teeth down. This may lead to chipped and broken teeth as well as jaw issues, headaches, and pain.

Dry mouth can be a side effect of snoring as well. This is because snoring causes you to sleep with your mouth open more often.

Less salivary flow can cause you to have a burning sensation on your tongue and lead to tongue and mouth sores and infections. Saliva plays an important role in washing out bacteria and dead skin cells. Without enough of it, you can develop chronic bad breath, as these dead cells are allowed to stay in your mouth and decompose.

Saliva neutralizes acids from plaque and washes food particles out of your mouth. A lack of saliva can lead to gum disease (gingivitis) and tooth decay, as bacteria have more chance to grow.

Chronic snoring and resulting dry mouth can lead to extensive gum disease, cavities, and significant oral health issues without treatment.

Treating snoring & sleep apnea

The right treatment for snoring will depend on the cause.

If snoring is related to your sleep position, propping your head on a pillow or putting a pillow under your body to stay off your back at night can help. When snoring is due to chronic nasal congestion, the root cause (allergies or infection) should be treated to help alleviate snoring.

CPAP machine
For sleep apnea, treatments often include using a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine. A CPAP can improve your breathing during sleep by supplying air through your nasal passages. The air pressure serves to keep your airway open, which reduces snoring.
Oral appliances

Oral appliances and devices can be used to treat both sleep apnea and snoring. These devices are fitted by an experienced dentist.

The mandibular advancement device is the most commonly used. This device moves your mandible and tongue forward during sleep to open up your airway.

A tongue-retaining device can also be used to hold your tongue more toward the front of your mouth, but these oral appliances are less common.

Surgery
When snoring and sleep apnea are caused by physical issues that are compromising your airway, such as a deviated septum, polyps in your nasal passages, or enlarged tonsils, surgery can be done to correct these issues. There are a number of palate-altering surgical procedures that can change the structure of your palate to treat sleep apnea and reduce snoring.

Other methods for improving or reducing snoring include the following:

  • Do not drink alcohol or take sedative medications within a few hours of bedtime.
  • Stop smoking if you smoke.
  • Lose weight to reduce excess tissue on your neck.
  • Wear a mouthguard to bed to lessen teeth grinding at night, which can contribute to snoring.

How your dentist can help

Your dentist may be one of the first people to recognize sleep apnea and issues with snoring. People are often more willing to keep up with regular dental appointments than medical ones. Your dentist may see you more often than your standard medical provider.

During a routine oral examination, your dentist will check for signs of teeth grinding, dry mouth, bad breath, tooth decay, and gingivitis, all of which can indicate an underlying issue. Dental x-rays of the head and neck area may show structural issues that can cause your airway to be obstructed in your sleep.

Dentists are trained to ask questions regarding the overall quality of your health and well-being. This can also pinpoint sleep issues, which can be caused by snoring and/or sleep apnea.

Your dentist can help you devise a treatment plan as well. Dentists can customize mouthguards. In fact, they are among the only professionals qualified to fit you for an oral appliance.

Dentists can work with your primary care provider (PCP) and sleep specialists to come up with a plan to manage and treat sleep apnea, reduce snoring, and improve your oral health.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is snoring related to teeth?
Snoring can be related to your dental health and teeth in that mouth and jaw structure and teeth grinding can cause you to snore. Snoring can also cause problems for your teeth over time.
Can dentists do anything about snoring?
Dentists can often be the first line of treatment for snoring, as they can recognize the signs and work to treat issues related to your dental health. Dentists can also work with your medical provider to treat sleep apnea and minimize snoring.
Can snoring cause gum recession?
Snoring can cause dry mouth and reduced saliva flow, which can lead to gingivitis. Gum disease can cause your gums to recede, so snoring can be a risk factor for gum recession.
Can snoring cause bad breath?
Yes, snoring can cause bad breath, as it can dry out your mouth. Without saliva to wash away the dead skin cells, they will remain in your mouth decomposing, which can cause bad breath.
Should I talk to my dentist if I think I am having sleep issues?
Your dentist can help to determine if snoring or sleep apnea can be a potential cause of your daytime sleepiness or fatigue by checking for related dental issues. Talk to your dentist about any potential health concerns so they work with your medical provider to help get you the care you need.
Does snoring cause cavities?
Snoring can contribute to cavities when there is less saliva due to a dry mouth. This is caused by snoring, as the acids from plaque are not neutralized, which can lead to tooth decay and cavities.
Do I need treatment for snoring?
If you suspect that you are snoring consistently, talk to your dentist and/or physician to determine the best course of action to keep yourself, and your teeth, healthy.

References

Snoring. (June 2020). Merck Manual.

Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Sleep Apnea (Obstructive). (March 2020). American Dental Association (ADA).

Sleep Apnea and Snoring. Mouth Healthy American Dental Association (ADA).

Combat Dental Health Problems by Treating Sleep Apnea Patients. (January 2021). Dentistry Today.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea. (September 2020). Merck Manual.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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