Oral Health and CPAP Machines

When people think of sleep apnea and CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines, as well as the medical issues associated with it, most people do not think about their oral health being affected. Oral health includes anything to do with the mouth which consists of gums, teeth, tongue, and back of the throat. While most people consider oral health issues nothing more than side effects, these issues can sometimes be enough to require medical attention from either a physician or dentist.

Oral Health Issues Related to CPAP Machines

Oral Health Issues Related to CPAP MachinesSome of the issues associated with oral health and CPAP machines include Xerostomia, dry mouth, periodontal disease, sore throat, and other medical problems. CPAP machines require using distilled water to prevent a patient’s mouth from drying out. Unfortunately to keep the device clean can be a tedious process that many have trouble keeping up, and thus don’t clean it as often as needed. This can have the devastating effect of creating an artificial Xerostomia. An excellent way to get around this issue is to use a CPAP cleaner. There are a few different types, but the Virtuclean CPAP cleaner and sanitizer works will all CPAP machines and accessories such as masks and humidifiers, and sanitizes in 30 minutes with the push of a button.

CPAP machines that cover only the nose are more likely to lead to dry mouth than masks that cover both mouth and nose. Having a humidifier and heated tubing adaptor helps keep your mouth moist. It is important to keep moisture in your mouth as you sleep because saliva also washes over your teeth and gums, helping to get rid of tiny food particles that bacteria eat. When you suffer from a dry mouth, you can be at a higher risk for cavities and gum disease. Sometimes, over an extended period of unresolved sleep apnea, that your teeth sockets will begin to dry out and if this happens too frequently over a long period of time you may see a loosening of your teeth.

Another issue is periodontal (gum) disease, which is a destructive and commonly acquired oral health condition. People with untreated sleep apnea stop and start breathing repeatedly through the night. This can lead to mouth breathing. Breathing through your mouth will lead to dry mouth which seems to be a small side effect, but healthy gums need moisture. When your gums become dry and irritated, they are more susceptible to inflammation and infection. Additionally, sleep deprivation can cause a weakened immune system, and a weakened immune system has trouble fighting infection. If gum disease is allowed to advance it can destroy the gingival, teeth, and bone. Periodontal disease is the chief cause of tooth loss among adults. Periodontal disease also involves a severe infection; which can enter your bloodstream and have damaging effects and can produce health complications.

Another issue sleep apnea patients encounter is bruxism, meaning clenching and grinding your teeth as you sleep. Bruxism can lead to all kinds of problems including TMJ disorder, damage to enamel, headaches, jaw pain, and toothaches. Other dental issues involved with sleep apnea can include cracked, broken, or missing teeth, pain when chewing, and chronic pain in the shoulder, neck, and head area.

CPAP Masks

There are a couple of ways to fix some of these issues we have just discussed. Dry mouth can be fixed with a full face mask if you are currently using one that only covers your nose. If you prefer just a nose mask, it might be worth adding a chin strap to keep your mouth closed while you sleep. Making sure your breathing mask fits you properly may also prevent dry mouth from occurring ensuring the heated air does not leak out around the mouth.

Oral Appliances

Keeping your medical devices clean is a critical step towards maintaining your oral health.Those who might not be able to sleep with a CPAP machine you can try a sleep apnea mouthguard (MAD – Mandibular Advancement Devices), MADs are made to fit your mouth correctly and they look similar to an athletic mouthguard. When worn, the MAD moves your lower jaw slightly forward stopping your tongue from blocking your throat.

Tongue retaining mouthpieces or TRMs are identical to MADs but have a small compartment that fits around your tongue with suction to help keep it forward, preventing it from blocking the airway. The TRMs help keep your airway open so that snoring will be reduced or even eliminated and your sleep apnea shouldn’t be a problem anymore. These devices are used more commonly in patients who cannot adequately have their jaw repositioned with a MAD. It is important to note these appliances are only for moderate or light apnea and are not adequate for severe sleep apnea. It is rare, but in more complex cases surgical procedures performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon may be necessary. Treatment with oral appliances is non-invasive and reversible, accompanied occasionally with initial side effects of tooth pain, temporomandibular joint pain, dry mouth, gum irritation, and excessive salivation. Dentists and dental hygienists can use various screening tools and observations to help assist in sleep apnea detection.

There are many things to worry about with sleep apnea, from what device would best help you to how best to maintain your device. Speaking to your physician and possibly dentist can help you make the best choices. Virtuclean, as mentioned earlier, can help sanitize oral appliances like MADs and TRMs the same way they can a CPAP machine. Keeping your medical devices clean is a critical step towards maintaining your oral health.