Having trouble sleeping?! You might have to blame your tongue! A new study shows a link between larger tongues and sleep apnea, a disorder whereby the patient will have interrupted breathing when sleeping. The findings are published in Saudi Medical Journal.
Tonsils and tongues being larger than the average size has been associated with a higher risk of suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) which is a disorder characterised by blocked airways resulting in interrupted breathing during sleep.
Study author Thikriat Al-Jeqair explains that oversized tonsils, and enlarged tongues (the latter involves signs of tongue indentations which are marks made by the teeth on the tongue indicating it is too large for the mouth) predisposes people to OSA.
Al-Jewair and his team discovered the correlation after they tested a group of 200 patients visiting dental clinics at the University of Dammam’s College of Dentistry in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) using the Berlin Questionnaire which is a scientific way to screen for OSA. 23% of these participants were found to be at risk for the disorder; it is to be noted that 80% of these were male.
This constitutes an invaluable finding relating to OSA: signs hinting at its occurrence can now be seen by dentists, an additional way to spot patients of the disorder. It will be relatively easy for dentists to observe the tongue indentations suggesting the entailed high risk. They will not, however, be able to diagnose the disorder, but they do have the expertise required to identify oversized tonsils and tongues. They might then advise their patients to consult a medical expert in the field.
Al-Jewair, therefore, recommends for dentists to be taught how they have a role to play in detecting patients having sleep disorders.
Also, along with enlarged tonsils and tongues, obesity was also a common factor affecting people with a greater risk for OSA.
The next step will now be to test more age groups, and to monitor the sleep of the participants in order to confirm the results.