There have been a number of studies suggesting that a link exists between edentulism (the condition of having one or more missing teeth) and obstructive sleep apnoea (also known as OSA – a syndrome characterised by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep).
In 2006, for example, a study carried out at the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Human Oncology at the University of Turin found that “complete tooth loss favours upper airway obstruction during sleep.”
However, new research led by Dr Jeff Tanner, an oral and maxillofacial surgery resident at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), casts doubt on this theory.
Dr Tanner and his team began with the hypothesis that people who have missing teeth have more serious sleep apnoea symptoms.
They carried out a review of patient records for 210 males who had been referred for OSA treatment, using an apnea-hypopnea index to grade the severity of each patient’s symptoms.
Next, they used panoramic radiographs to establish the total number of teeth lost, the number of mandibular teeth lost, and the number of posterior dental functional units lost for each patient.
After evaluating the data, the researchers concluded that age and body-mass index were the main factors associated with OSA, whereas tooth loss had no significant influence:
“The degree of tooth loss is not associated with OSA severity. Tooth loss does not worsen OSA.”
However, Dr Tanner believes further research is necessary, and suggested that, in order to obtain conclusive results, sleep studies would need to be undertaken on an individual before losing teeth, after losing teeth, and when wearing complete dentures.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for Dental Research, he said:
“Only by conducting this type of study will we be able to be certain to state whether or not tooth loss predicts OSA…If in the future it could be stated that edentulism worsens OSA, it would be a strong case for dentists to attempt to restore patients back to a dentate state with implants which maintain alveolar ridge height unlike dentures.”
If you have missing teeth and want to know more about replacing them with dental implants, get in touch and speak to one of our patient advisors today.