CPAP Therapy and Your Oral Health
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is a common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. While CPAP is an effective treatment for improving sleep and reducing daytime sleepiness, some people wonder if using their machines can negatively impact their oral health. In this blog, Dr. Rebecca Lauck at North Texas Sleep Solutions explores the potential effects of CPAP on oral health and provides tips for mitigating any risks.
How CPAP Works
CPAP therapy devices work by delivering constant pressurized air through a mask. The air pressure is customized to each patient based on the severity of their sleep apnea. This pressurized air acts as a pneumatic splint to keep the airway open. As you inhale, the pressurized air prevents your airway from collapsing as it normally would with obstructive sleep apnea. This pressure allows for regular breathing patterns during sleep.
The pressurized air is delivered through either a nasal mask that covers the nose or a full face mask that covers both the nose and mouth. Nasal masks are more common, but full-face masks may help people who breathe through their mouths during sleep.
Potential Side Effects of CPAP on Oral Health
One of the most common side effects of CPAP is dry mouth. This occurs because the constant flow of pressurized air can dry out the mouth. Having a dry mouth for extended periods can have several consequences:
- Increased Risk of Cavities: Saliva helps wash away food debris and neutralize cavity-causing acids in the mouth. Without enough saliva, the risk of tooth decay is higher.
- Gum Disease: Dry mouth allows bacteria to grow more readily, increasing the risk of inflammation and infections like gingivitis.
- Halitosis: The lack of saliva allows more bacteria to grow, which can cause bad breath.
- Difficulty Speaking or Swallowing: Saliva acts as a lubricant, so not having enough can make talking and swallowing uncomfortable.
Dental and Orthodontic Changes
Some studies have found changes in dental alignment and structure resulting from long-term CPAP use. These effects may include:
- Tooth Movement: The constant pressure from CPAP therapy may cause teeth to gradually shift positions. This is more likely with nasal masks.
- Bite Changes: Related to tooth movement, some people’s bites change from CPAP, affecting occlusion and alignment.
- Narrowing of Palate: For users of full-face masks, the pressure against the palate over time can lead to a higher, narrower palate.
- Bone Loss: A few studies have found slight bone loss in the upper jaw from CPAP use.
The extent of dental changes varies widely between individuals. Not everyone will experience significant orthodontic effects from CPAP machines. But for some, especially long-term users, the risk exists.
Alternatives to CPAP
Oral Appliance Therapy
For those who struggle with CPAP side effects or have trouble adjusting to the therapy, an alternative option to consider is oral appliance therapy. Oral appliances are molded mouthpieces, similar to mouthguards, worn during sleep.
They work by keeping the airway open using different mechanisms depending on appliance type. Some bring the jaw forward, some keep the tongue from blocking airflow, and others do both.
Benefits of oral appliances include:
- Improved sleep apnea symptoms
- More natural feeling than CPAP masks
- Easy care
- Covered by some dental insurance
- Can be used in combination with CPAP
Tips to Protect Oral Health with CPAP Therapy
If you use a CPAP machine, there are things you can do to minimize risks to your oral health:
- Use a Humidifier: Heated humidifiers added to the CPAP machine allow you to inhale moistened air rather than dry air. This reduces mouth and throat dryness.
- Drink More Water: Stay well hydrated during the day to promote saliva production and oral wetness, even at night.
- Use Oral Moisturizers: Products like oral spray or mouthwash add moisture directly to the mouth. They can be used right before bed.
- Consider a Chinstrap: Straps that go under the chin can help keep the mouth closed during sleep, reducing dryness.
- See Your Dentist Regularly: Get professional cleanings and checkups to monitor for issues like cavities or gum disease. Tell your dentist you use CPAP.
- Brush Well Before Bed: Be diligent about your oral hygiene before sleep to help counteract CPAP effects.
While CPAP can negatively impact oral health for some users, being proactive with the above measures can go a long way in reducing risk. Be sure to speak with your doctor and dentist to come up with the right plan for your health. Consistent CPAP use overnight is still essential for properly managing sleep apnea.
Reduce Your Sleep Apnea Symptoms
CPAP therapy provides enormous benefits for sleep apnea patients, such as increased energy, reduced long-term health risks, and improved concentration and mood. However, some people experience side effects like dry mouth and dental changes from nightly use.
With proper awareness and preventive care, you can reap CPAP’s advantages while minimizing oral health risks. Explore sleep apnea solutions and get a better night’s sleep with Dr. Rebecca Lauck at North Texas Sleep Solutions in Keller, TX.