Do you wake up feeling tired, have bags under your eyes, and feel exhausted during the day? Do you snore, or have you been told you stop breathing at night?

You might be wondering why a dentist is inquiring about energy levels and sleep habits, but there may be a direct connection to your mouth.

These are all symptoms that you are waking up at night due to a blocked airway, an often undiagnosed disorder called “sleep apnea.” It is a serious, life-long medical condition that can impact every aspect of your life.

Many dental hygienists screen for sleep apnea at your routine visit. In addition to the symptoms above, when your dental hygienist or dentist finds wear on your teeth surfaces, it indicates grinding – which is often linked to attempts to open the airway.

People clench and grind their teeth in an effort to open their airway. A dry mouth is also associated with sleep apnea.

If your screening suggests you have sleep apnea, a comfortable, night-time oral appliance, such as a custom-made SomnoDent device, will push your lower jaw forward and prevent you from blocking your airway. Sleep appliances are very successful and are often linked to lower blood pressure. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is another common, easy and efficient solution for sleep apnea.

Your dental hygienist or dentist will determine if your sleep apnea is more complex and can refer you to a sleep specialist, who might wish to conduct a sleep study.

Even if they don’t ask, make sure to mention any of these symptoms when you see your dentist, hygienist or physician. When left untreated, sleep apnea can exacerbate conditions like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, liver problems, and dementia.

Advancements in medical technology can help you enjoy more restful nights and improve your overall health.

Matthew Mastrorocco, DMD is the owner and founder of ROC Dental Group, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head Island.