Trouble sleeping? Size of your tongue, tonsils could be why

Visiting the dentist may be able to help you with your sleepless nights.

According to a University at Buffalo study, oversized tonsils and tongue indentations placed people at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Although dentists can't diagnose OSA, they can spot an enlarged tongue or tonsils and recommend a patient to a sleep medicine specialist.

"Dentists see into their patient's mouths more than physicians do and the signs are easy to identify," said Dr. Thikriat Al-Jewair, University at Buffalo orthodontic researcher.

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that happens when your regular breathing is interrupted during sleep. Snoring is common among patients with sleep apnea but not all snorers have sleep apnea, according to, the ADA's consumer website.

OSA, the more common form of sleep apnea, is the result of blocked airflow during sleep, usually when the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses while you sleep.

According to the study, 23 percent of the participants, who were screened for potential risk factors of OSA, such as weight, neck circumference, blood pressure and size of tongue, tonsils and uvula, were at risk for OSA. Obese patients were almost 10 times more likely to report OSA symptoms than non-obese patients.

Sleep apnea affects more than 18 million American adults, but many go undiagnosed, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Severe cases of the disorder are linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and memory loss. For more information on sleep apnea, visit and search for "sleep apnea."

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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