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Study Links GERD and Sleep Apnea

Study Links GERD And Sleep Apnea

Study Links GERD and Sleep Apnea

New research has linked sleep apnea with Gastroesphageal reflux disorder (GERD) and sleep bruxism.

At some point, many of us have slept near someone who snores — you know that it makes for a long and sleepless night.  In most cases it seems as though our “snorer” is getting a good night’s sleep, but that often isn’t the case.  Even though it appears they are sleeping soundly, if you hear their snoring, it’s likely they’re (also!) not getting restful sleep.

It is estimated that 60% of people who snore actually have sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a decrease in airflow.  The person is not breathing while they are sleeping, and you can actually hear them gasping for air.  Patients with apnea are basically holding their breath for minutes at a time while they are trying to sleep.  This is very stressful on the body, which naturally responds by getting the person out of their deep sleep so they can “wake-up” and breathe again.  We dream during the deep-sleep phase, so patients with apnea often do not have dreams. Because these patients never enter the deep-sleep phase, they often feel fatigued.

New research has linked sleep apnea with Gastroesphageal reflux disorder (GERD) and sleep bruxism.

GERD is a condition in which the stomach contents come back up into your mouth.  As you can imagine, the taste is very bad.  The contents of your stomach are very acidic, too, and the acid causes the teeth to erode.  As a dentist, this is very concerning; over time the teeth may erode. This may lead to root canals or even tooth loss.

Sleep bruxism is a term used to describe grinding of the teeth at night.  Many patients are not aware of their grinding. Dentists will ask patients if they grind their teeth, especially if they notice wear; a grinder’s teeth will look very smooth without any grooves.  Depending on the severity of the grinding, a patient could wear their teeth down to little nubs.

The best way to treat sleep apnea is with a CPAP machine. This machine blows air into your nose and keeps the airway open, but a lot of people have a difficult time with this machine.  It is loud, difficult to travel with, and patients report feeling claustrophobic with the machine in place. A great alternative to the CPAP is a mandibular advancement appliance.  This is an appliance that a qualified dentist (that’s us!) can make for you. This device works by moving the lower jaw forward, causing the airway to open. In most cases, this treats the sleep apnea. It’s also shown to decrease GERD and sleep bruxism.

If you snore, or your dentist is concerned about wear and loss of tooth structure, it might be a good idea to talk to your dentist about the possibility of having sleep apnea.

Blog post by Dr. Alanna Wirtz

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You can be fit for a Sleep Apnea Snore Appliance at Madison Family Dental by our highly trained dentists.

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