Dentistry is far more than root canals and oral hygiene. Research finds more and more ways in which dentists can be a force for good in the overall health of their patients. One of these is in sleep disorders, and it appears that sleep has more to do with the mouth than you might think.
A new study published in Clinical Oral Investigations found that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) significantly influences one of the major markers of health in the mouth: inflammation.
Researchers studied 52 patients with and without obstructive sleep apnea. They found that individuals with sleep apnea showed a significant increase in periodontal pathogens and inflammatory biomarkers like Il-6. This change in microbes and biomarkers increased with severity of sleep apnea:
“OSAS appeared to alter the tested bacteria in plaque, correlate with increasing periodontal disease severity, have additive effect on salivary IL-6.”
This is not the first time sleep disorders have been associated with poorer oral health. A 2014 study in Pediatric Pulmonology found that salivary biomarkers—particularly the stress hormone cortisol—are significantly correlated with obstructive sleep apnea in children. Recent research has also suggested that OSA is associated with an increase in inflammatory biomarkers.
Sleep apnea has been linked to insulin resistance, cognitive decline, and a whole host of other health risk factors. Treatment of sleep apnea has not only helped people lead more productive, fulfilling lives, it can also improve numbers like blood pressure and glucose levels—significantly reducing overall risk for some of our most costly and deadly diseases.
And now it appears that effective management of obstructive sleep apnea may help us better control periodontal disease, a condition that affects 80% of the adult population and contributes significantly to systemic inflammation and disease. Coordinating advanced professional dental care—and in some cases, dental solutions for OSA—with sleep physicians and other medical professionals allows us to better manage obstructive sleep apnea and its effects on the whole body.