Sleep Apnea: Signs to Watch For

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

At Eggert Family Dentistry, we know that sleep apnea is no laughing matter. It can go undetected for years and has serious side effects. Take a few minutes to consider the warning signs, when to discuss signs with us or your doctor and some effective treatment options to consider.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is an intermittent blocking of the airway during sleep. This often occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax too much, causing soft tissue to collapse into the airway and resulting in partial or complete blockage.

When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, breathing can be restricted for 10+ seconds, decreasing oxygen to your brain and causing a buildup of carbon dioxide. This cycle of airway blockage can repeat many times a night, leading to fitful sleep and many serious side effects. Side effects include glaucoma, increased blood pressure, heart disease and unfortunately, even death.

What signs should I watch for that may indicate sleep apnea?

You or your loved one may be battling sleep apnea if the following signs are present:

  • Loud snoring
  • Night sweats
  • Extreme daytime fatigue
  • Gasping or choking upon awakening
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening
  • Reduced daytime concentration
  • Mood swings and irritability

The symptoms of pediatric sleep apnea can be very different from sleep apnea symptoms in adults. Learn more here.

When to see your dentist or doctor

If you’re experiencing any signs of sleep apnea, it’s important to make an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth Eggert or Dr. Jeff Eggert and with your primary doctor. While there can be other causes behind some of these signs, obstructive sleep apnea is a common and serious condition. If, upon evaluation, we think you might be struggling with sleep apnea, you may find success with one of these treatment options: CPAP or Oral Appliance Therapy.

CPAP: A mask that covers the nose and/or mouth, connected to a tube and machine, that delivers continuous air pressure all night long, allowing the airway to remain open.

Oral Appliance Therapy: A custom-fit mouthguard that keeps the airway open by supporting the jaw in a forward position. This is something that Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff can fit you for in our office.

To learn more about obstructive sleep apnea, check out our Sleep Apnea FAQ’s.

You’re in good hands at Eggert Family Dentistry! If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with sleep apnea, schedule an evaluation with us at 651.482.8412.

Reasons We Might Refer You to or Collaborate with an ENT

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

There are certain situations at Eggert Family Dentistry when we need to collaborate with other physicians to provide the best possible care for our patients. Especially as we have worked to integrate more airway into our practice, many of you have been asked to seek out care with a board-certified ENT for a more integrated approach to dentistry.

In this article, we will provide information about how certain medical conditions may be linked to your airway and therefore situations where it may be best to collaborate with an ENT. We will also launch into more specific information about some of these conditions below.

  • Sleep – if you have trouble snoring, falling asleep, staying asleep, trouble with restless sleep, you wake up feeling unrefreshed, or issues with nighttime urination, these can all be linked to airway issues.
  • Other Health Conditions – ADHD, allergies, anxiety, birth defects, cardiovascular disease, chronic head and neck pain, chronic pain, daytime fatigue, depression, digestive issues, emotional problems, frequent colds, sinus problems, sore throats, or tonsillitis, grinding or clenching of teeth, headaches, high blood pressure, jaw locking, large tonsils or adenoids, memory loss, mouth breathing, neck aches, obesity, pain or clicking in jaw joint, previous orthodontics, PTSD, speech problems, sucking habits, tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, or type II diabetes can all be linked to airway issues.
  • Dental Observations – there are many dental conditions that can be linked to poor airway flow as well such as crowded teeth, deep overbite, forward head position, head tilted back, mouth breathing, narrow dental arches, recessive lower jaw, scalloped tongue, tongue thrust, tongue tie or tooth wear.

Snoring and sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can lead to several other serious medical conditions. In cases where our patient is struggling with sleep apnea, Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff can often link what they see with the teeth, jaw, and muscles (like the tongue) to aid in determining the cause. Does our patient have inadequate space for the tongue based on the size of the jaw? Is the root of their condition the size or shape of their soft palate? How does the alignment of the teeth play in? Once this is determined, the best course of treatment is pursued. It is often helpful both during the diagnostic phase as well as during the treatment phase to collaborate with an ENT. This allows us to look at the situation from all facets and choose the best course of treatment.

Beyond sleep apnea itself, there are other sleep disordered breathing diagnoses or simply disordered breathing at all times, that can be detrimental to overall health. ENTs or other medical professionals can often help us navigate through treatment options.

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids in children can cause facial and jaw deformities as a child grows. When Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff notice enlarged tonsils or adenoids and determine that the enlargement is not simply due to a virus, we will often refer our patient to an ENT for a consult.

Sinus problems

If a patient comes into our office with jaw pain, Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff evaluate many things, including the patient’s teeth and jaw. Because sinus problems can be a contributing factor to teeth and jaw discomfort, if their examination is inconclusive, Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff will refer our patient to an ENT for further evaluation.

In some cases, mucus can build up in the sinus cavity, causing sinusitis and leading to halitosis (bad breath). If halitosis is present (often in combination with jaw discomfort), this is another situation where Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff will most likely refer our patient to an ENT.

TMJ disorder

Another common cause of jaw pain is a disorder of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). At Eggert Family Dentistry, we most commonly treat TMD by providing our patient with a splint or night guard. In severe cases, full-mouth reconstruction may be necessary. However, if we are unable to make a dental determination for the jaw pain, we can refer our patient to an ENT for a CT scan or an MRI to rule out bone and joint issues.

At Eggert Family Dentistry, we go above and beyond to make sure each one of our patients receives superior care. This often means referring our patient to or collaborating with a board-certified ENT for further investigation. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with us, give us a call at 651.482.8412!

 

Pain When You Chew? It Could Be TMD

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to jaw discomfort. From chewing on hard foods to facial tension from stress, jaw discomfort is a miserable, often debilitating experience. While there can be many contributing factors, there are at least as many great treatments. At Eggert Family Dentistry, we have hands-on experience diagnosing and treating TMD, one of the most common jaw disorders. Understanding what TMD is as well as its symptoms is crucial to proper diagnosis and treatment.

What is TMD?

Although people often refer to this jaw disorder at TMJ, the correct reference is TMD. TMJ refers to the joint itself – the temporomandibular joint – which is responsible for controlling many jaw functions like chewing and talking. TMD is a disorder of this joint, a condition which can stem from a variety of behavioral, psychological and physical issues.

Causes

TMD has many possible causes some of which include stress, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, arthritis, jaw dislocation, injury to the jaw and poor jaw and tooth alignment. Teeth grinding is particularly problematic because it can lead to further problems, many tooth related. Prolonged grinding can cause enamel to wear off teeth and expose dentin, making teeth more susceptible to decay. It can also increase a person’s sensitivity to hot and cold.

Signs and Symptoms

There are many symptoms of TMD that mimic other medical issues. This can make TMD difficult to pinpoint. TMD symptoms include:

  • Pain when opening or closing the mouth
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Jaw becoming stuck open or shut
  • Headaches, migraines, ear pain, ringing in the ears, double vision
  • Clicking or popping sounds when opening the mouth
  • Teeth grinding
  • Wearing down or breaking of the teeth

Diagnosis

The above-listed symptoms can be attributed to a variety of health problems. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms it’s best to start by visiting a medical professional for a whole body physical to rule out possible medical conditions. Keep in mind, however, that many medical professionals don’t fully understand how TMD can be a large part of your issue because they haven’t always been trained to make that connection. Especially if there is no concrete medical diagnosis, it is best to make an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff for a consultation. We can screen you for TMD with our comprehensive records process and offer relief for your symptoms through the treatment option that’s right for you!

Treatment

If, upon completion of your consult, we determine that you’re dealing with TMD, we have numerous avenues of treatment that can provide you with relief and alleviate your symptoms. Some common treatment options include:

  • A custom night guard/splint that can help lessen the effects of teeth grinding and deprogram muscle patterns
  • Behavioral treatments and muscle therapies that change the way you use your jaw and muscles
  • Full-time splint therapy to provide full-time relief
  • Appliances to improve your airway
  • Full-mouth reconstruction to improve tooth position
  • Orthodontic treatment that may or may not include oral jaw surgery

Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff will also talk with you about some easy ways you can partner with us to get to the root of your symptoms and experience relief. Ideas include practicing relaxation techniques to alleviate stress, avoiding chewing gum or nail-biting, eating softer foods and incorporating hot/cold compresses to the jaw.

At Eggert Family Dentistry, mouth comfort is one of our highest priorities. If you think you’re experiencing the uncomfortable effects of TMD, schedule an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff by calling us at 651.482.8412!