Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Your sleep impacts every aspect of your health and daily life. Sleeping well helps you look, feel and perform your best. But a sleep problem can be harmful to your health and well-being. One of the most common sleep problems is obstructive sleep apnea. Learn more about the warning signs and how you can get help.

About Obstructive Sleep Apnea


Nearly 30 million adults in the U.S. have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which can cause them to stop breathing hundreds of times a night for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that occurs when your muscles relax during sleep, allowing soft tissue to collapse and block the airway. As a result, repeated breathing pauses occur, which often reduce your oxygen levels. These breathing pauses are followed by brief awakenings that disturb your sleep.

Common signs of sleep apnea include snoring and gasping or choking sounds during sleep. Like snoring, sleep apnea is more common in men, but it can occur in women too, especially during and after menopause. Having excess body weight, a narrow airway or misaligned jaw all increase the risk of sleep apnea.

Is Treating OSA Important?
Treating obstructive sleep apnea is incredibly important to your health. When left untreated, sleep apnea often causes excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue, as well as morning headaches and memory loss. Sleep apnea also is a threat to your safety as it increases your risk of drowsy driving and workplace accidents. Untreated sleep apnea raises your risk for serious health problems. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic acid reflux
  • Erectile dysfunction

Severe, untreated sleep apnea even increases your risk of death.

How is OSA Diagnosed?
Kleinheinz Dentistry is proud to offer a Free Sleep Study. Call our office for more information. 704-542-6003.

How is OSA Treated?

Dr. Kleinheinz can discuss treatment options with you. We will provide a FREE SLEEP STUDY at your convenience.

  • Oral appliance therapy uses a mouth guard-like device - worn only during sleep - to maintain an open, unobstructed airway.

Research shows that oral appliance therapy is an effective treatment option for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. An oral appliance is worn in the mouth only while you sleep and fits like a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. Oral appliances support your jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway.

Many patients consider a sleep apnea appliance to be more comfortable to wear than a CPAP mask. Oral appliances also are quiet, portable and easy to care for.

If you decide that oral appliance therapy is the best treatment option for you, then Dr. Kleinheinz will recommend a prescription for you to receive a custom-made sleep apnea appliance. More than 100 oral appliances have received FDA clearance. We prescribe and make the FDA approved appliances. Oral appliance therapy is covered by many medical insurance plans. We will do a complete benefits check upon your scheduled appointment.

If you have lost any of your teeth, you no doubt realize there are consequences to living without them: Your smile may not look the way you want it to; eating, speaking and intimacy may be more difficult; and your self-confidence may fade. Though serious, these are not the only impacts. There are hidden consequences of losing teeth that affect not only your appearance but also your health.

Tooth Loss and Premature Aging

Tooth loss and premature aging.

Importantly, a loss of jawbone inevitably follows tooth loss. In just the first year of tooth loss, there is a 25% decrease in bone width. This is followed over the next few years by an overall 4 millimeters decrease in height. If enough teeth are lost, and as bone loss continues, the distance from nose to chin can decrease and the lower third of the face partially collapses. With a lack of structural support, the lips sag; that's why toothless people often appear unhappy and prematurely aged. Also, extreme loss of bone can make an individual more prone to jaw fractures.

Besides helping a person without teeth look and feel great again, dental implants actually prevent bone loss. That's because they are made of titanium, which has a unique ability to fuse to living bone. By actually becoming a permanent part of the jawbone, dental implants stabilize and stimulate the bone to maintain its volume and density. Learn more about tooth loss and premature aging.

The Dangers of Removable Dentures

Other than dental implants, your tooth-replacement options include fixed bridgework that incorporates or uses the adjacent teeth, and removable dentures. You should be aware, however, that the disadvantage of these options is that they may damage the anatomical structures on which they rest. Removable full dentures present the greatest risk to your health of any tooth-replacement option as they press on the bony ridges that used to support the teeth, accelerating the bone loss that began when the teeth were lost in the first place.

Removable dentures and bridgework using natural teeth are both less expensive than dental implants, but only when viewed in the short term. Since dentures and bridgework may cause new problems and will likely need replacement themselves, they don't offer the same long-term value. When viewed as an enduring investment in your comfort, health and well-being, implants offer the best return by far. Learn more about the dangers of removable dentures.

Cost of Not Replacing Missing Teeth

There is another option you may be considering: not to replace your missing teeth, at least not right away. This is not something we would recommend. In fact, the quicker you act to replace missing teeth, the less expensive the procedure will be. That's largely due to the inevitable bone loss that follows tooth loss as described above.

As discussed, dental implants are your best option for replacing missing teeth in appropriate circumstances. However, if your tooth-supporting bone has begun to degenerate, there may be problems that need to be addressed before your implants are placed. For example, the bone may have shrunk down so much that the nerve running through it is now too close to the surface to risk placing an implant in the ideal location without first building up the bone volume there. This would require a bone-grafting procedure, which is quite routine these days but adds cost and time to the treatment plan. Certain situations involving bone loss could require additional implants to be used. So it's best to act sooner rather than later to get back your smile. Learn more about the cost of not replacing missing teeth.

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The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth For those missing even one tooth, an unsightly gap is actually the least significant problem. What's of far greater concern is the bone loss that inevitably follows tooth loss. Dental implants can preserve bone, improve function and enhance psychological well-being. Learn how implants serve both as anchors to support replacement teeth and preserve bone... Read Article