The Link Between Underbites and Sleep Apnea: How to Improve Your Quality of Sleep

If you have an underbite, you’re probably already familiar with some of the problems this kind of misalignment can cause. From difficulty chewing your food, to speech struggles, bad breath and bacterial infections, there are a number of significant side effects that you may experience as a result of your poorly aligned jaw. But did you know that having an underbite can also affect your quality of sleep?

For instance, perhaps you regularly find yourself waking up after what you think is a full 8 hours of sleep, and yet you feel as tired as you did when you first went to bed. Perhaps you often feel drowsy and fatigued during the day, even though you can’t recall waking up during the night, and you pride yourself on your healthy sleep habits.

If you’ve been experiencing these kinds of symptoms, you could be suffering from sleep apnea as a result of your underbite.

How An Underbite Can Contribute To Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition which causes sufferers to temporarily stop breathing while they sleep – sometimes numerous times in a single night. When this happens, the brain will detect a lack of oxygen, prompting the sufferer to stir, reopen their airway, and start breathing again.

While the person who has sleep apnea may never become fully conscious during these episodes, they will still be missing out on the deep cycles of sleep that they require for a proper night’s slumber. As a result, they wake up feeling tired and foggy, even though they may think they’ve had plenty of rest.

Sleep apnea is also problematic because it can lead to other serious health complaints such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and liver problems. They also have an increased risk of potentially life-threatening heart conditions.

While sleep apnea can have a number of causes, ranging from excessive weight to smoking or nasal congestion, having an underbite – or a similar kind of jaw misalignment – can also be a factor.

This is because a poorly aligned jaw can cause breathing issues when you sleep, by contributing to a narrowing of the airway. This can lead to symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.

Common Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea
If you have a jaw misalignment, particularly a severe underbite, you may be wondering if it could be causing you to suffer with sleep apnea.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of the condition; if you or your partner notices that you are struggling with some of these effects, then it’s probably a good idea to seek medical advice as soon as possible, and perhaps embark on a recommended form of treatment.

  • Pauses between breaths
  • Gasping for air
  • Severe snoring
  • Excessive fatigue during the day
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Waking up with a dry mouth

Treating Mild Cases Of Sleep Apnea
If your underbite is causing you to suffer from a mild case of obstructive sleep apnea, and you’d rather avoid more drastic forms of treatment, there are several things you can try to improve your sleep quality and enjoy a more restful slumber.

Of course, your primary focus should lie toward correcting your misalignment – either surgically, or non-surgically. Here are a couple of the treatment options you can consider to fix your underbite and help you breathe more easily while you sleep.

Braces Or Clear Aligners
One of the most effective and affordable ways to treat an underbite is with the help of braces or clear aligners, which gently but firmly reposition the teeth. This helps to correct the misalignment of the jaw, alleviating all of the related problems that you can experience as a result of your underbite – including sleep apnea!

Surgery To Correct Your Underbite
While most people who have an underbite won’t need surgery, in a small number of more severe cases, this may be the only effective option available; an oral surgeon will be able to advise on whether or not your underbite requires this more drastic form of treatment.

Other Treatment Options For Sleep Apnea
While you are waiting for your underbite surgery, or for your braces or aligners to correct the misalignment, there are several things you can try to alleviate your sleep apnea and hopefully enjoy a better quality of sleep.

Avoid Sleeping On Your Back
If you tend to sleep on your back, this can exacerbate your breathing difficulties and make it much more likely that you will experience sleep apnea. This is because, when you lie on your back, your soft palate and your tongue will lie against the back of your throat. This can prevent enough air getting through, which will then cause your breathing to pause until your brain stirs you enough to shift your position.

Use A Nasal Decongestant
As well as jaw misalignment, sleep apnea is also linked to related behaviors such as mouth breathing, which we tend to do when our nasal passages are blocked or congested. As a result, it may help if you use a nasal decongestant to clear your passages and allow more air to pass through. Speak to your doctor or a pharmacist about which decongestants will be most suitable for you.

Use A Mouthpiece
One form of non-surgical treatment which is used to alleviate sleep apnea is a mouthpiece device, which can be helpful for anyone suffering from mild or moderate cases of the condition.

There are different types of mouthpiece available but they also serve the same essential function – to help keep your airways open while you’re sleeping.

Some mouthpieces are designed to achieve this by stabilizing your tongue in a particular position, while other mouthpieces help with the alignment of the jaw, bringing it forward. If you have an underbite, this kind of mask, in particular, may be of use, as it manually corrects the misalignment while you sleep.

If your underbite and other contributing factors have caused you to develop more severe sleep apnea, then your doctor may recommend CPAP – also known as continuous positive airway pressure.

CPAP is a machine that funnels oxygen into your airways while you sleep, with the help of a mask that fits over your nose and mouth, or which is fitted into your nose while you slumber. Because of the constant pressure provided by the air being pumped into your body by this machine, your airways are kept open, which means you will have fewer episodes of sleep apnea-related breathing troubles during the night. This, in turn, means you will be able to enjoy a deeper and more restful slumber that will leave you feeling refreshed in the morning.

Of course, wearing a cumbersome mask over your nose or mouth while you sleep won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and if you decide to go down this route then you’ll probably find that it takes some getting used to. However, CPAP is deemed to be the most effective non-surgical treatment for sleep apnea.

Final Thoughts
Having an underbite is a severe form of dental problem that can cause all kinds of related conditions, sleep apnea among them.
The good news is that, if you are currently struggling with the side effects of an underbite, there are effective treatment options available to suit your unique situation – and your budget.

In time, your underbite will be corrected and all of the attendant problems you’ve been experiencing – such as sleep apnea – will hopefully disappear along with it.

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