Part Two – Sleep and Oral Health: What’s the Connection?

Part Two – Sleep and Oral Health: What’s the Connection?

In my previous blog, I discussed the importance of nasal breathing during sleep cycles and what a lack of REM sleep can do to one’s body/health, as well as why mouth breathing is unfavorable during sleep. Mouth breathing can cause serious dental issues. Increased gum inflammation leads to dry mouth, which in turn leads to higher incidence in cavities and periodontal disease. It also has a huge impact in craniofacial development in children.

Patient tongue-tie:

A particular patient of mine had a tongue-tie, unbeknownst to both myself and the patient. I gave her a thorough examination and noticed rigid, stout borders on her tongue. I then asked her about her sleep. Her response? She sleeps terribly, waking up multiple times per night to go to the bathroom. Upon lifting her tongue during her oral examination, I noticed she had a tongue-tie. I fixed her tongue-tie which, in turn, drastically improved her quality of sleep. Without the tongue-tie, this patient is now able to breathe through her nose rather than her mouth.

In order to help my patients, I have to learn more about their sleep habits at times. I have recently started sending certain patients who fit the criteria home with a pulse oximeter. The oximeter records data every four seconds on the patient’s pulse rate and oxygen saturation while they sleep. When they return the device, I can look at their data to see what their quality of sleep looks like.

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Patient deviated septum:

Another patient of mine has trouble clenching her jaw at night and complained about consistent tiredness, waking up in the middle of the night, etc. I noticed this patient had a deviated septum, and I sent her home with the pulse oximeter device to see what her sleep quality looked like. Upon receipt of her data, I found her oxygen saturation dipped into the 70s during her sleep. (For those who may not know, if your oxygen saturation is in the low 80s in a hospital setting, you’re probably getting intubated.) I gave her nasal dilators to put in her nose at night and medical grade tape to tape her mouth shut. Yes, you read that correctly – tape her mouth shut. After her first night of sleep trying this recommendation, her oxygen levels were 98/99 across the board throughout her sleep duration and she woke up more rested than she had felt in years. I referred the patient to an ENT for surgery to have her deviated septum fixed, which fixed her sleep issue for good.

Craniofacial development in children:

When children have a lot of teeth in their mouth and not enough space for them, some dentists and orthodontists have been known to pull pre-molars. This happened to me as a child, and four perfectly healthy pre-molars were pulled. This inhibits craniofacial growth and causes issues in adults where the mouth is much narrower than it needs to be, and the tongue cannot move to the roof of the mouth during sleep like it should. If your child sees an orthodontist who recommends pulling pre-molars, I highly recommend you seek a different one.

If you’re struggling with sleep quality, feel like you may have a tongue-tie or a deviated septum, mouth breathe when you sleep, etc. – give me a call and schedule an appointment at 251.344.4571. I am ready to improve not only your quality of sleep, but your quality of life.