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Snoring may be ruining your teeth

Have you heard? Snoring is everywhere

We’ve all heard it, haven’t we? That harsh, low roaring in the middle of the night. Or maybe you never have… maybe you’re the snorer.

Snoring affects most of us. With over 90 million Americans snoring every night, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you’d think we’d know the exact reason it happens. But medical experts attribute it to a range of factors including weight, alcohol use, illness, medication and even sleep deprivation.

It’s so common we often think snoring is perfectly natural, even healthy. But snoring is usually a symptom of something else going on in the body. And while snoring persists, the health of your smile is at risk. 

What is snoring anyway?

Snoring happens when your airway is partially or completely blocked. Vibrating tissue, a swollen or fluid-filled nasal cavity or tongue blockage causes that all too familiar sound.

Regardless of the reason for the blockage, the effect is the same: breathing becomes difficult, and to overcome it, we open our mouths to allow for more air. And herein lies the dental problem.

Snoring affects more than your bed partner

Extra oxygen sounds like a good thing, but not in this case. When your mouth hangs open, saliva can dry out. If this problem continues, salivary glands malfunction and can no longer make enough saliva to keep the mouth wet, a condition called xerostomia. Xerostomia is the hidden cause of gum disease and tooth loss in 30% of adults, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.

Dry mouths are more susceptible to pH imbalances, cavities and tooth decay. Without saliva, acids and bacterial plaque quickly accumulate and dissolve tooth enamel or create microscopic pits that enlarge into cavities. Left untreated, bacteria can even penetrate the tooth’s inner level, affecting sensitive nerves and tooth roots.

Saliva is your teeth's best friend

It appears that saliva just sloshes around all day. But that watery substance works hard doing things like:

• Washing away food particles

• Easing the chewing and swallowing process

• Providing enzymes that help digest food

• Limiting bacterial growth by neutralizing acids

• Controlling mouth’s pH level

• Preventing tooth decay

• Lubricating the mouth 

 

Having stringy, thick saliva, a sticky mouth or even bad breath are telltale signs that you’re not producing enough saliva. You may also notice your tongue is grooved or dry or that you have problems wearing dentures. More extreme cases of xerostomia result in changes in taste and difficulty speaking or chewing.

Whether or not you’re a snorer, these dry-mouth symptoms are the first sign your dental health may be at risk. 

I snore... does that mean I'll lose my teeth?

Snoring doesn’t mean you’ll lose your teeth, but you do have to be especially diligent about dental care. The first way to combat the mouth-drying effects of snoring is to manage your brushing habits. Brushing twice a day for at least two minutes is your first step in clearing bacterial overgrowth. Daily flossing is also critical, as this targets sneaky bacteria that grows at the gumline and in between teeth.

Snorers must also be meticulous about regular dentist visits. Your dentist can check for cavities, and if found in early stages, can even help repair, reverse or stop tooth decay. And if a cavity is particularly large, your dentist can help resolve the problem with a filling or crown, if necessary.

Snoring is in your hands

To protect your smile, it’s important to actively manage activities that can worsen dry mouth. Snorers and those who frequently experience dry mouth should consider taking these steps:

• Avoid sugary or acidic foods or beverages

• Limit caffeine and alcohol intake

• Avoid dry, spicy or especially hot or cold foods that irritate your mouth or digestive system

• Sleep with a humidifier

• Stay hydrated, especially at night, by keeping a water bottle handy and sipping frequently

• Try saliva stimulants

• Check your mouth for patches or ulcers

• Brush twice a day and floss regularly

• Vist your dentist regularly 

 

Keep track of any changes in your mouth or with your breathing. If you or your partner detect significant changes, be sure to contact your physician or dentist. 

What if my snoring is serious and nothing seems to help?

To get concrete answers about your condition, ask your physician to schedule an overnight sleep evaluation. If the effects of your snoring are advanced, your physician may recommend a common corrective measure such as:

• Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy: A CPAP machine’s hose, mask and nosepiece steadily push air through your airway, keeping it from narrowing.

• Fitted mouthpiece: Your dentist can make a customized mouthguard-like device that keeps your airway propped open by repositioning your mouth.

• Minor surgery: If deemed necessary by your physician, surgery can remove tissue at the back of your throat to clear your airway.

Snoring not only affects your loved ones, it affects your dental and overall health. Armed with information and vigilant about your self-care, hopefully you’ll be able to sleep more soundly and smile more brightly.  

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