At Rolling Oaks Dental, our comprehensive new patient examination is, well, comprehensive. Through some efficient systems we’ve created, we’re able to capture a lot of information on the patients we take care of in their very first visit. Some of the questions we ask patients may be a first for them at a dental appointment. Here’s a great example of a question most patients haven’t heard from a dentist:
Do you snore?
So why does the dentist want to know if you snore? There are several reasons. Most people visit their dentist more frequently than they do their primary care physician. As a result, dentists are sometimes better positioned to screen common health problems. While snoring can sometimes be an innocent finding, it is often an indicator of a serious health problem or serious health problems to come. Obstructive sleep apnea and upper airway resistance are examples of sleep disordered breathing that many patients suffer from. The long term health effects of these conditions are serious and should not be ignored.
Besides seeing patients more frequently, there is another reason we are screening dental patients for symptoms associated with these disorders: they affect your teeth. Night time bruxism habits as well as acid reflux problems seem to go hand in hand with patients that have sleep disordered breathing. Patients that are regurgitating acid onto their teeth and then grinding those weakened teeth together are doing severe damage to their teeth. The damage can go unnoticed for years because it happens slowly and doesn’t necessarily cause pain.
Many patients who snore sleep with their mouths open and suffer from dry mouth. Saliva protects our teeth from decay and our gums from inflammation. If your mouth is dried out all night, your body isn’t protecting itself with its own natural defense system.
Dry mouth with no saliva protection. Stomach acid in the mouth. Grinding and clenching teeth. These ingredients are a recipe for dental problems.
Here is an all too common finding: a new patient comes to my practice that is at the end of their rope with dentists. They’ve spent countless hours and dollars in the dental chair and nothing seems to work. Crowns and fillings always break. Teeth are worn down and have pain. Every time they see a new dentist, there are new cavities and new things to repair. The frustration is unbearable and they are starting to hate the dentist! I’m not saying 100% of these patients have undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders, but I feel safe in saying that most of them do. When you have underlying health problems that have a negative impact on your dental health, dental treatment will most likely not work on you until the underlying problem is solved. Doing dentistry on a patient that is suffering from a form of sleep disordered breathing can be like mopping the floor in a bathroom with a sink that’s overflowing. You can mop all you want, but until you turn the water off you’re not solving any problems! You can buy the nicest mop ever made and hire the best maid in the world, but the water is still running and the floor is still getting wet!
So what should you do? If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, it’s probably not a bad idea to share these findings with your physician AND your dentist. Together, they can make suggestions and recommendations that may not only improve your dental health and overall, it may also save your life. If you need adentist in San Antonio, Texas, my wife and I would love for our practice to be your dental home, so call us today.