New Study Links Obstructive Sleep Apnea to the Tongue

A new study has linked obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) to the size of tonsils and the physical attributes of the tongue. Thikriat Al-Jewair, an orthodontic researcher from the University at Buffalo, discovered that oversized tonsils and tongue indentations along with obesity where the prevalent attributes among people who were diagnosed with OSA.

Her study included 200 participants from the dental clinic at the University of Dammam’s College of Dentistry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Twenty three percent of the participants were identified as high risk for OSA, and the majority of which were male. The other parameters used to assess for risk of having OSA were weight, neck, circumference, blood pressure, the size of the tongue, tonsils and the uvula. These were measured, and participants were carefully assessed using the validated Berlin questionnaire to screen for OSA.

She added that the severe sleep apnea cases were linked to cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, memory loss and many other factors.

With her findings, can dentists help assess patients for the possible risk of OSA? Thikriat Al-Jewair said that the dentist could identify enlarged tongue or tonsils. However, dentists don’t generally diagnose the disorder, but rather can refer patients to sleep specialists for further evaluation.

She reiterated that dentistry students and dentists alike need to be educated about this condition for proper identification and treatment recommendations.

Conversely, Thikriat Al-Jewair highlighted in her study that future research is recommended to include more participants, involve various age groups and to monitor sleep in order to connect all the relevant data findings concerning OSA.

Her research entitled “Prevalence and risks of habitual snoring and obstructive sleep apnea symptoms in adult dental patients,” was published in the Saudi Medical Journal and was funded by the Deanship of Scientific Research grant from the University of Dammam.


Trouble sleeping? The size of your tongue and tonsils could be why,

Author: Amabelle Equio, Ph.D candidate in Nursing at Silliman University, Health, Fitness, Medical Writer, Photography Enthusiast.

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