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What is Periodontal Disease?

What is Periodontal Disease?

The surprising role your gums play in your health.

If you had to guess, how vital would you say your gums are to your oral health? What about to your overall health? It might surprise you to learn that they actually hold a vital role in both. Your gums seal the vulnerable roots of your teeth off from bacteria, protecting them from decay. They also prevent bacteria from making their way into your bloodstream, which can cause a wide range of overall health issues. So while your gums may look unassuming, they’re essential for your health—which makes it just as essential for you to make sure they’re healthy.

An important step in keeping your gums healthy is understanding the basics of the greatest threat to their health: periodontal disease. Knowing the danger it poses, how to spot it, and how to prevent it can help you better protect not just the health of your gums, but the health of your entire body as well. To help you understand how and give you a head start on your home dental care, we’ve provided a breakdown of periodontal disease.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is an infection that occurs in your gums when bacteria begin attacking them. It can be broken down into two specific types. Gingivitis is a milder form of gum disease where bacteria cause red, inflamed gums. If it isn’t treated, it has the potential to develop into periodontitis, a much more severe form of gum disease where your gum tissue begins to pull away from your teeth. This breaks the seal that your gums naturally form, allowing bacteria underneath the gum line to attack the roots and other supporting structures of your teeth.

At its worst, periodontitis can lead to tooth loss—and since periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in America, this isn’t as rare as you might initially think. Even if you’ve never had a cavity, the health of your teeth is in danger if your gums aren’t healthy. Periodontal disease has the potential to wreak lasting damage on the health of your teeth and gums, so even mild cases always require immediate treatment.

What causes periodontal disease?

Poor oral hygiene is the most well-known cause of periodontal disease, and it’s certainly one of the major factors—but it’s not the only cause. Other factors, including genetics, pre-existing medical conditions like autoimmune diseases or diabetes, medications that cause dry mouth, hormonal changes like those that occur during pregnancy, any form of tobacco use, and obesity can increase your risk of getting gum disease.

What are the symptoms of periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease has a wide range of potential symptoms, many of which you can easily overlook at home, especially in the earlier stages. If you do notice a few symptoms, it’s easy to brush them off or not realize their significance, partially because gum disease is often completely painless until it’s very advanced. Common symptoms of gingivitis include gums that have begun to recede from your teeth, darkened in color, or bleed when you floss or brush your teeth. Your gums may also be slightly swollen or tender and you may struggle to keep bad breath under control.

As periodontal disease develops into periodontitis, existing symptoms often worsen and more severe symptoms begin to appear. Receding gums can cause new gaps to form between your teeth or may make your teeth look longer than they used to. You may notice that your teeth feel a little loose, fit together differently when you bite, or even hurt when you chew. Eventually, periodontitis will lead to tooth loss if it isn’t treated.

How do I tell the difference between normal bad breath and bad breath caused by gum disease?

In general, bad breath should go away—and stay away—after you brush and floss your teeth and rinse your mouth with mouthwash. If it regularly comes back only a few minutes after you’ve completed a thorough oral hygiene routine, this may be a cause for concern. There are a few other factors that can cause persistent bad breath, such as eating food that contains a lot of garlic or onions, but it’s worth visiting your family dentist if this is a constant problem for you. Dr. Farless or Dr. Locklear will be able to tell you if your gums are healthy and may be able to help pinpoint a few other potential causes of your bad breath.

What overall health problems can periodontitis lead to?

Once bacteria make it underneath your gum line, they often make their way into your bloodstream as well. Your immune system responds to these invaders by triggering low-level inflammation in your body. Inflammation is a vital part of your immune response, but when it’s constant and throughout your body, such as often occurs with untreated periodontitis, it can lead to a long list of overall health problems. Periodontitis can make it harder for diabetic people to control their blood sugar and can increase the likelihood that pregnant women will give birth prematurely or have low-birthweight babies. The low-level inflammation throughout your body can also cause high blood pressure and increase your chances of suffering from a stroke or heart attack.

Additionally, while most people’s immune systems kill the oral bacteria themselves without much of a problem, this isn’t always the case; oral bacteria can sometimes trigger potentially life-threatening infections, such as endocarditis, in other parts of your body. Inhaling oral bacteria also increases your likelihood of suffering from respiratory illnesses like pneumonia.

How is periodontal disease treated?

There are several ways to treat periodontal disease, so exactly how Dr. Farless or Dr. Locklear will go about treating you depends upon the severity of your case. Gingivitis can usually be treated at home by committing to a regular and thorough oral hygiene routine. In addition to visiting your dentist for a checkup every six months, you should brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day, floss at least once a day, and use a mouthwash that’s designed to help fight against gingivitis either once or twice a day. After just a week or two of following your new routine, your gums should stop bleeding when you floss. This is a good sign that your gums are healthy again.

Periodontitis is a little harder to treat, however, because the bacteria need to be thoroughly cleaned from beneath your gum line. As a result, you’ll need your dentist in Greensboro, NC, to perform specialized treatments. Scaling and root planing are two nonsurgical treatments for periodontitis that are often performed together. These procedures clean bacteria from the roots of your teeth and then smooth their surface to discourage future infections. In severe cases, surgical treatments may need to be performed to clean beneath the gums more thoroughly or to repair the damage done to your gums or the supporting structures of your teeth. Whether you have gingivitis or periodontitis, you may also be prescribed an antibiotic to help your body fight off any lingering bacteria.

How can I prevent periodontal disease?

Thankfully, preventing periodontal disease is generally as simple as maintaining a great oral hygiene routine at home—including flossing. Flossing is absolutely vital to help you keep your gums healthy because it’s the only way to remove plaque and bacteria from around your gum line. You should also visit your family dentist every six months, as they will be able to keep an eye out for signs of gum disease, give you tips on how to better care for your teeth and gums, and treat any issues they do find early. Detecting gum disease early is incredibly important to prevent it from doing lasting damage to your oral or overall health. If you’re following a thorough oral hygiene routine at home and are still struggling with gum disease, try flossing twice a day and schedule a consultation with your dentist. They may be able to give you tips on more steps you can take.

Your gums might seem unassuming at first glance, but they have a surprisingly huge impact on your oral and overall health. The good news is that they’re incredibly easy to care for—sticking to a great oral hygiene routine is usually all you need to keep them healthy. It’s a pretty small investment of time for huge returns, as your overall health will be better in the long term as well. If you suspect you may have gum disease, are ready to commit to your oral health, or simply need to book a regular appointment, feel free to call our family dentistry Greensboro, NC, office to schedule an appointment at any time.

How Dental Bridges and Implants Can Help You

How Dental Bridges and Implants Can Help You

Implants provide versatile, long-term treatments for missing teeth.

Teeth may seem like an ordinary part of your everyday life, but they’re surprisingly powerful. A smile has the power to cheer the people around you, it impacts others’ impressions of you, and helps you build relationships. Your teeth also have a vital role in helping you to eat and speak properly, so losing a tooth can impact your life in multiple ways. It makes once-simple tasks harder, can decrease your self-confidence, and has the potential to harm your oral health. Thankfully, dental implants allow you to restore the function and appearance of your teeth while protecting your future health.

Dental implants are titanium rods that are secured in your jaw bone to take on the role of your lost tooth’s natural root. While a porcelain crown is often secured on top of a dental implant to replace a single missing tooth, implants can also support bridges, partial dentures, and full dentures. As a result, implants are versatile enough to fit a diverse range of treatment needs. They also protect your oral health better than any other tooth replacement option, making them the best treatment when you’ve lost a tooth. Here’s how implants and implant-supported bridges can help you.

Dental implants protect your remaining teeth.

Unfortunately, the gap left behind by missing teeth isn’t completely harmless. If it isn’t filled, your remaining teeth begin to spread out over time to fill it, which can cause a wide range of issues. Having more of a gap between your teeth makes it harder to floss and brush them properly, increasing your likelihood of getting cavities or gum disease—both of which can cause you to lose more teeth if they go untreated. Even seemingly small shifts in your teeth can impact the way your bite fits together, which can make chewing food awkward or result in TMJ pain. By filling this gap, dental implants keep your teeth from shifting, preventing these issues from occurring in the first place.

Additionally, dental implants replace missing teeth without requiring your healthy teeth to undergo any dental treatments. Traditional bridges, for example, replace one or two missing teeth by placing crowns on the healthy teeth next to the gap. While traditional bridges are certainly an effective and worthwhile treatment for missing teeth, performing extensive work on otherwise healthy teeth isn’t ideal. It’s always best to keep as much of your natural tooth structure as possible. Since dental implants mimic natural tooth roots, they don’t need to be supported by the surrounding teeth. As a result, your natural teeth stay natural.

They revitalize the appearance of your smile.

The truth is that a missing tooth tends to be noticeable when you laugh or smile, so even losing a single tooth can impact how you feel about your smile or express yourself in public. The tooth restorations placed on top of dental implants are designed with this truth in mind. They’re made of porcelain, so they’re incredibly customizable. You can choose the size, shape, and shade of your new teeth, which helps them blend into your smile so naturally that no one will even know they’re there. This can have a huge impact on your self-esteem and self-confidence, transforming the way you carry yourself in public or even the way you think about yourself in private—a value that goes far beyond how other people might feel about your smile. It’s incredibly important that you love your smile and feel comfortable sharing it with others, and dental implants allow you to design a smile that will do just that.

They restore the function of your teeth.

Dental implants don’t just look great, though. They have the same deep-rooted stability as natural teeth, making them incredibly functional. Whether you have a single implant fitted with a crown or multiple supporting dentures, they function just like natural teeth. You don’t have to avoid certain foods or worry about your new teeth slipping or falling out of your mouth. They feel and function just like natural teeth, so you can simply enjoy eating all of your favorite foods and having fun, worry-free.

Just like natural teeth, however, porcelain has its limits—and they’re largely the same as the limits of natural teeth. Using your natural teeth or your tooth prosthesis to tear open packages, chew ice, or crack nuts can crack, chip, or break them. While the implant itself should be fine, you’ll likely end up needing a new crown or bridge if you damage it in this way. Since these limits are the same with natural teeth, however, dental implants really do provide the next best thing to regaining your natural teeth.

They protect against bone loss.

Your tooth roots hold your teeth securely in place and provide constant stimulation to your jaw bone. Without this stimulation, your body begins to reabsorb the bone in the area, causing low bone density. Over time, this process makes your jaw more susceptible to fractures and can lead to the stereotypical caved-in appearance of denture-wearers’ faces. Dental implants are the only tooth replacement option that can prevent this.

The other options to replace missing teeth do prevent your teeth from shifting while restoring the function and appearance of your teeth, but they simply can’t address this deeper issue. Since implants take over the job of your natural tooth roots, they provide the stimulation that your jaw bone needs to stay healthy. In fact, titanium encourages bone growth; after the implant is placed, bone grows up around it, restoring some lost bone density and anchoring the implant more securely in place.

Dental implants provide lifelong benefits.

While other tooth replacement options need to be completely replaced due to wear and tear after a certain time, dental implants will last a lifetime with proper care. This care includes brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day, flossing and using mouthwash at least once a day, and visiting Dr. Farless or Dr. Locklear for an appointment every six months. The restoration on top of your dental implant will eventually need to be replaced due to wear and tear, but this is an easy process. The dental implant itself will continue to provide benefits for your oral and overall health for the rest of your life.

Implant-supported bridges replace multiple teeth on a budget.

Since traditional bridges are supported by two of your natural teeth, they’re usually used to replace one or two missing teeth. When you place a bridge on implants, however, the implants supporting the bridge are also replacing missing teeth. This allows implant-supported bridges to replace more teeth at once, usually between three and four. The dental implants lend just as much stability to the bridge as they do to tooth restorations like dental crowns, ensuring that your new teeth still look and feel completely natural. Additionally, since they require you to receive fewer implants to restore more teeth, they also tend to be less expensive. As a result, implant-supported bridges are a great option when you want the benefits of dental implants but need to replace multiple teeth on a budget. They offer a great balance that gives you the stability and long-term protection of dental implants at a more affordable price.

While you can’t turn back time and regain your lost teeth, dental implants provide the next best thing. They mimic natural tooth roots to give you the stability and sensation of natural teeth, can match your designs to blend into your smile, and are versatile enough to fit all of your treatment needs. Implant-supported bridges have all these benefits, but they allow you to replace multiple teeth in a way that protects you from bone loss without breaking the bank. If you’re interested in learning more about cosmetic dentistry in Greensboro, NC, or if you’d like to learn whether dental implants are right for you, feel free to call our family dentist to schedule an appointment at any time.

What Are the Most Common Types of Cosmetic Dental Procedures?

What Are the Most Common Types of Cosmetic Dental Procedures?

Cosmetic dentistry can restore your smile and improve your oral health.

Have you smiled yet today? If so, congratulations! You activated a natural pathway in your brain that fights stress, reduces pain, releases “happy hormones,” and even lifts the mood of others around you.

For those of us who are uncomfortable with our natural teeth, cosmetic dentistry can provide a confidence boost that makes us proud to flash that gorgeous grin and reap the benefits that come with it. Its value isn’t only superficial, though—it can also help to restore and protect your teeth for years to come.

To learn more about the types of cosmetic dental procedures available and how they can change your smile (and your life) for the better, keep reading.

Common Types of Cosmetic Dental Procedures

Whether it’s limited to teeth whitening or uses a combination of several procedures, the visible difference before and after cosmetic dental treatment is astonishing. The exact procedures that are right for you will depend on your unique needs, but here are some of the options your dentist may recommend.

Dental Veneers

What are porcelain veneers? They’re one of the fastest and easiest ways to completely transform your smile.

Dental veneers are thin layers of porcelain or composite resin. They hide imperfections by covering the visible front surface of your teeth. They’re identical to natural teeth, and you can choose your desired level of whiteness.

Your dentist may recommend veneers to protect teeth with cracks, chips, discoloration, or thin enamel. They can also hide unevenly spaced and misaligned teeth without the need for braces.

Cosmetic Dental Crown Procedure

While porcelain veneers only cover the fronts of your teeth, dental crowns cover the entire exposed surface. They can help you:

  • Keep your natural tooth after a root canal.
  • Restore integrity to cracked and worn-down teeth.
  • Repair cavities that are too large or complex for a standard filling.
  • Hide discoloration and other surface damage.

Porcelain and metal dental crowns are durable and long-lasting, but they can take up to three weeks to make, during which time you’ll wear a temporary crown. CEREC crowns, also called same-day crowns, use 3D-scanning technology to make a custom ceramic crown in only one appointment.

Porcelain Bridges

Gaps from missing teeth can leave you insecure about your smile and make it hard to eat or speak clearly. What’s more, these open spaces can allow your teeth to shift out of alignment over time, causing problems with your bite.

Thankfully, there’s a minimally invasive procedure that can replace missing teeth without dentures or implants. Porcelain bridges are pontics (dental prosthetics) that are identical to your missing tooth. In most cases, the pontic is fused to two dental crowns. Your dentist will place these crowns on top of the teeth on either side of the gap, and the pontic will form a “bridge” between the two.

The end result is a natural-looking, gap-free smile that will last you up to 10 years, no surgery required.

Clear Correct

For those who want to correct their misaligned teeth but don’t want to wear traditional metal braces, Clear Correct invisible braces are a great option.

The Clear Correct system uses a series of removable, clear plastic aligner trays to gradually move your teeth into position. It can fix many of the same issues as traditional braces, including gaps, crowding, over- and under-bites, and crooked or twisted teeth.

They’re also comfortable, discreet, and don’t require you to change your diet or oral hygiene routine.

Where Cosmetic and Restorative Dentistry Intertwine

Many people considering one of the treatments listed above will wonder, “What are cosmetic dental procedures going to do for my oral health?” The answer? Much more than you might think.

Cosmetic, preventative, and restorative dentistry overlap in many ways. For example, Clear Correct tooth straightening can help align your bite, and this can keep teeth from hitting each other at an angle when you chew, preventing chips and uneven wear.

Dental crowns can restore the integrity of already damaged teeth and keep you from needing implants or dentures. Even porcelain veneers can add an extra layer of protection to slightly chipped or cracked teeth. And for teeth that have already been extracted, dental bridges will fill the gap to help you chew and speak easily without the hassle of removable dentures.

Cosmetic dentistry is far from frivolous. With all these life-changing benefits, what may seem like a “vanity procedure” is really an investment in your appearance, your confidence, and your dental health.

Benefits of Seeing a Family Dentist for Cosmetic Dental Procedures

Many people assume that to have these types of cosmetic dental procedures done, they’ll have to visit a specialist. While cosmetic dental specialists do exist, it may be better for you to visit a family dentist who also provides cosmetic and restorative treatments.

Why? A family cosmetic dentist is already knowledgeable about your needs and oral health. They can take a more well-rounded approach that improves not only your teeth’s appearance but their health as well.

As an added benefit, seeing your family dentist for crowns, veneers, or bridges also lets you have these procedures done in a comfortable, familiar environment. You’ll know you’re in good hands when working with a provider that you’ve already built a trusting relationship with.

Seeing a family cosmetic dentist may also be more cost-effective. If you have dental insurance that covers cosmetic procedures, your dentist will bill the company directly and you’ll only have to cover the difference, just like with a normal appointment. If you don’t have comprehensive dental insurance, talk with your dentist ahead of time about the cosmetic dental procedure prices and their payment plan options.

Are you looking for cosmetic dentistry in Greensboro, NC?

Taking care of your teeth is a good and worthy investment in your mental and physical health. Restoring your teeth with cosmetic dental procedures not only gives you the confidence to flash a brilliant smile, but it can also improve your mouth’s function and help preserve your natural teeth.

Looking for the best dentist in Greensboro, NC? Farless Dental Group performs these types of cosmetic dental procedures and more. Contact us online to schedule your first appointment at our family dentistry clinic in Greensboro, NC, located conveniently in the Oakcrest Dental building. We look forward to helping you achieve the healthy smile of your dreams.

The KöR® Whitening System: A Step Above the Rest

The KöR® Whitening System: A Step Above the Rest

A Safe and Effective Way to Brighten Your Smile

According to a recent study, 80% of Americans want whiter teeth—and for good reason.

The benefits of white teeth extend beyond an improved appearance to include increased confidence and friendliness. After all, if your teeth are white, you’ll want to show off your smile.

KöR Whitening is among the most effective whitening systems available. Read on to learn more about how it can help you rediscover your smile.

What Are My Tooth Whitening Options?

The natural color of your teeth depends on pigments in the dentin and enamel. Over time, stains introduced by food, drink, smoking, and other factors can mar the natural whiteness of your teeth.

If your teeth are lightly stained at only the surface level, whitening toothpaste may produce some improvement in appearance. For the most stubborn surface stains and stains that have penetrated microcracks in the enamel and dentin, you have four options:

  • Professionally applied whitening systems, including KöR Max, Ultra, and Ultra-T
  • Dentist-prescribed and dispensed systems for home use, including KöR Home
  • Commercially available, over-the-counter systems
  • Home remedies

As you explore your options, it’s important to compare their relative safety and effectiveness.

Home Remedies

Home remedies are worth mentioning first because they seem convenient. Their convenience draws many patients in. Why invest in a whitening system from your dentist or even an over-the-counter whitening system when you have ingredients in your home that could make your teeth whiter? In fact, there is good reason to make this investment and avoid at-home measures.

Home remedies for whiter teeth often use the following materials:

  • Baking soda
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Activated charcoal

While baking soda is relatively safe, it will—like whitening toothpaste—remove only light surface stains.

Apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and activated charcoal, in contrast, are downright dangerous. Even when diluted with water and used in small amounts for short periods of time, these materials can damage your teeth. Using acidic or abrasive home remedies can wear down your teeth’s structure and hardness.

This damage is not only dangerous. It can also be counterproductive to your whitening efforts. As these materials erode your teeth’s enamel, more of the underlying dentin will appear. Naturally yellow in color, the dentin’s appearance will mar, not enhance, the whiteness of your smile.

Commercially Available, Over-the-Counter Whitening Systems

OTC whitening systems use peroxide solutions. These come most often in the form of gels, rinses, and strips. The safety and effectiveness of these products vary widely.

One reason for this variety stems from the more limited regulations the commercial whitening industry faces. OTC whitening systems are classified as “cosmetic” products, rather than drugs or medical devices. While they are “regulated,” they face more limited regulations than medical products.

Often consumers are reassured by these limited regulations and unwittingly purchase products that do more harm than good. In fact, OTC whitening systems have the potential to damage the teeth and gums.

Professional Whitening Products Available Through Your Dentist

Professional whitening systems use hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide gels to remove the most stubborn stains. They are also powerful enough to safely reach stains below the surface level of your teeth.

The water, hydrogen, and radicals in peroxide act as bleaching factors to lighten teeth.

To be effective, these gels must do the following:

  • Be sufficiently strong
  • Activate a sufficient number of free radicals to break the bonds that hold stains together
  • Have sufficient time to work

While other systems fall short, KöR whitening systems meet these three conditions. KöR products are available for use at home or in the dentist’s office.

Dentist Prescribed and Dispensed Systems for Home Use

If you choose a do-it-yourself whitening system, your safest option is always to purchase an at-home system from your dentist. He or she will have reviewed products, regulations, and existing research and offer only the most effective and safest options.

These include the KöR home system, which offers daytime and nighttime whitening options. Your family dentist can advise you on how to use these products for maximum effect.

With your dentist’s advice, you’ll understand KöR whitening instructions. You’ll know how to store KöR gels to maintain their potency. You’ll also know how to insert the trays into your mouth. Doing so is essential to ensure that the patented KöR-Seal technology protects the whitening agents from saliva contamination.

With your dentist’s help, you’ll also be able to choose the product that is best for your needs. Nighttime whitening products are stronger and more effective. However, they are not for everyone. Individuals with especially sensitive teeth may opt for KöR-Day treatments.

As you discuss your options, your dentist can, finally, help you decide if the condition of your teeth and your whitening goals require additional in-office interventions.

Professionally Applied Whitening Systems

Many professionally applied systems for whiter teeth combine in-office treatments with at-home maintenance. The KöR system does precisely that. Three KöR Whitening systems begin with in-office treatments and continue at home.

KöR Max is among the most popular of these options. With KöR Max, you can expect one in-office treatment with the most potent whitening gel. You’ll follow this in-office treatment with two weeks of KöR-Night treatments at home and periodic maintenance.

For patients with more stubborn stains, including those due to childhood exposure to fluoride, KöR Ultra may offer better results. The KöR Ultra process begins and ends with an in-office treatment. Between these visits, you’ll use KöR-Night for three to four weeks at home.

The most stubborn tooth stains can result from exposure to the antibiotic tetracycline. At one time, these stains were thought to be irreversible. Extending KöR-Night treatments for six to eight weeks, however, KöR Ultra-T offers hope to patients with tetracycline staining.

The Advantages of KöR Whitening

While other whitening options are available, KöR Whitening offers distinct advantages. These advantages make it among the safest and most effective options.

First, KöR Whitening is the only company to ensure that their gels are refrigerated from manufacturing to their arrival at your dentist’s office. Maintaining this constant temperature is essential to maintaining the product’s integrity.

In fact, whitening products rely on unstable chemicals. This means that they react quickly to changes in the environment, including temperature. This reactivity is precisely how whitening agents work.

To produce the intended effect, however, these reactions need to happen in your mouth. If they happen—or begin to happen—during shipping, the product’s quality degrades. As a result, its effects to make your teeth whiter are diminished.

You can count on KöR teeth whitening to maintain refrigeration throughout production and shipping, and you can count on the Farless Dental Group to maintain refrigeration in the office.

KöR-Seal trays produce another significant advantage of the KöR system. Besides temperature, saliva contamination can also degrade product quality. KöR-Seal trays are designed to prevent this contamination. This means that KöR Whitening gels remain at full potency for the full treatment time.

Making Your Smile As Bright As the Smiles You Share with Others

You bring so many smiles to so many people in your life. Your smile deserves the same care you give them.

KöR Whitening can help you care for your smile. The Farless Dental Group can help you choose from among your KöR options. If you decide to take your cosmetic dental treatments further, they can also help you explore other treatments, including CEREC crowns.

Whatever your needs, we’re here to help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

What is sleep apnea, and is it dangerous?

What is sleep apnea, and is it dangerous?

Snoring can be a warning sign of a much bigger health issue.

Have you ever been snoozing away only to receive a face-full of pillow from your partner, telling you that your snoring keeps waking them up? Or have you been on the other end of it, struggling to sleep through the halting, impossibly loud snores of your partner? Whether you’re putting on a marathon chainsaw impression or are the one trying to sleep through it, the experience can make for a frustrating night, especially if it’s becoming a nightly routine. Snoring isn’t just an annoying problem, though—it can indicate a dangerous or even life-threatening condition called sleep apnea. We’ve answered some basic questions about sleep apnea below to help you understand its potential dangers as well as how your Greensboro dentist can help you stay healthy and get a full night’s sleep again.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition where you repeatedly stop breathing for short periods throughout the night. Different types of sleep apnea have different root causes for this issue, but the most common type is caused by obstructive sleep apnea. With obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles in the back of your throat relax when you fall asleep, allowing your tongue and the tissues in your throat to narrow or completely close. This causes you to stop breathing. Fortunately, your brain recognizes the danger and wakes you up just enough to widen your airway again. You generally don’t remember waking, so you may feel like you’re getting uninterrupted sleep for the entire night when you aren’t. In fact, since you can stop breathing anywhere between five and 30 times an hour all night long, sleep apnea can greatly impact your ability to enter a deep sleep. This keeps you from getting the benefits of these more restful sleep phases. As a result, sleep apnea causes a range of symptoms in addition to loud snoring, including:

  • Gasping, snorting, or choking sounds during sleep.
  • Moodiness.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Daytime fatigue.
  • Dry mouth in the mornings.
  • Difficulty staying asleep throughout the night.
  • Morning headaches.

If you or your partner notice these symptoms, it’s always best to visit a sleep doctor to investigate whether you have sleep apnea. This way you can begin receiving treatment, which will help you stay healthier and sleep better.

What makes sleep apnea so dangerous?

Based on most of the symptoms we’ve listed so far, sleep apnea may sound exhausting and unpleasant, but not too dangerous. After all, you start breathing again automatically, right? Unfortunately, the reality is that sleep apnea significantly raises your risks of other health complications. These include high blood pressure, liver problems, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart problems, like heart disease, a heart attack, and abnormal heartbeats.

Additionally, the constant fatigue and difficulty concentrating that result from this condition can hurt your performance at work and increase the likelihood of accidents. In addition, the condition itself can cause issues with surgery and certain medications. Symptoms like irritability and moodiness can also create problems of their own, potentially putting a strain on your relationships.

What are the risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea?

There is a wide range of risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea. Some are completely outside of your control and others are a little easier to change. Your likelihood of having or developing this condition is greater if you have a family history of the condition, have a naturally narrow throat, or are male. Your age and existing medical conditions also increase your risk. Some other factors that are slightly more controllable are your weight, smoking, or using alcohol or sedatives, as these can relax the muscles in your throat.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, you should schedule an appointment with a sleep doctor right away. They will likely perform a sleep study at home or in a sleep center. During the study they will monitor your breathing, heart rate, oxygen levels, and blood pressure throughout the night. Studies done in a sleep center also allow doctors to keep track of how much you’re moving around in your sleep. They will also monitor your lung and brain activity. This allows them to determine when you’ve stopped breathing, how long you stop breathing for, and how often you’re doing this each hour. If you stop breathing five times or more each hour, you’ll likely be diagnosed with sleep apnea.

How can your family dentist help?

A CPAP machine is a common and extremely successful treatment for sleep apnea. The problem with a CPAP machine is that it’s bulky, high-maintenance, and isn’t comfortable for many patients. Not everyone wants to—or can—use a CPAP machine. If you fall into this category, dentists like Dr. Farless can actually help treat your sleep apnea or snoring by using an oral appliance. This appliance looks a lot like a nightguard or mouthguard, but it’s custom-made for you and designed with comfort in mind. When you’re fitted for the oral appliance, Dr. Farless will find your ideal jaw position, which is a comfortable, relaxed position for your jaw that naturally widens your airway, keeping it open.

As a result, the oral appliance you receive is designed to work with your unique body rather than being a one-size-fits-all solution. This helps ensure it’s comfortable and effective. One study found that oral appliances eliminate the symptoms of mild to moderate sleep apnea in 40% to 50% of patients. They improve symptoms in an additional 10% to 20% of cases, making it an effective treatment for the majority of patients.

Snoring might sound harmless, but untreated sleep apnea can lead to a wide range of dangerous health conditions. It’s wise to visit a sleep doctor if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms related to it. Don’t let the idea of using a CPAP machine get between you and your health. Oral appliances are a viable, effective, and comfortable treatment option that you can use instead! If you’d like to learn more about oral appliances and how they may help you get the rest you need, feel free to call our Greensboro dentist office to schedule a consultation.

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