Sleep Apnoea 

General Dentistry


Chronic severe snoring and sleep disturbances are often signs of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleep apnoea or OSA affects a person’s breathing and interrupts sleep. People with sleep apnoea stop breathing repeatedly, sometimes hundreds of times, while they sleep.  Poor sleep quality affects job and/or school performance and increases the risk of workplace and road accidents. OSA is also linked to many health problems, like hypertension, stroke, arrhythmia, enlargement of the heart muscle, heart failure, diabetes, depression and even sudden death.

What is it

Sleep apnoea happens when overly relaxed airway muscles collapse, causing a complete or partial blockage of the upper airway. This forces the diaphragm and chest muscles to work extra hard to reopen the airway, resulting in gasping or jerking as breathing resumes. The blockage of the airway does more than cause an abrasive snore — it disrupts oxygen flow, interrupts sleep and stresses vital organs.



The first sign of sleep apnea is often tooth grinding (also called bruxism). Grinding can cause tooth wear and breakage, inflamed and receding gums as well as a spike in cavities. Other symptoms:

  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Headaches upon waking
  • Trouble concentrating; forgetfulness or irritability
  • Night sweats
  • Restlessness at sleep
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Snoring
  • Sudden awakening with gasping or choking
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Mood changes
  • Gastric reflux




  • Abnormal shape of the facial bones, inherited or developed over time (this may include nasal problems that narrow the nose passage).
  • Tonsils
  • Adenoid enlargement
  • Obesity
  • Increasing age (when tissues in the air passage become more lax).



When a dentist thinks that you may have sleep apnea, he or she will often recommend a sleep study (polysomnography). The severity of sleep apnea is measured in number of events where there is reduced breathing with a drop in oxygen saturation during sleep per hour (Apnoea – hypopnea index).



Treatments can range from weight management for those who are overweight, to non-invasive devices like dental splints worn during sleep that protrude the lower jaw enlarging the air space behind the tongue decreasing the tendency for the airway walls to collapse, and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) — a mask-like device that blows out air to keep the airway open while you sleep. Surgery on the areas (eg, soft palate) may also be used to increase the airway passage or reduce obstructions.


Sleep Apnea