The Link Between Oral Health and Sleep Apnea: Understanding the Role of Tartar and Plaque


Oral health plays a vital role in our overall well-being, and it is increasingly recognized that it can have significant implications for various systemic conditions. One such condition is sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep. Recent research suggests a connection between oral health, specifically the presence of tartar and plaque, and the development and severity of sleep apnea. This article aims to explore this connection and shed light on the potential implications for both oral health and sleep apnea management.

Understanding Sleep Apnea:

Sleep apnea is a condition that affects breathing during sleep, leading to fragmented sleep patterns and potentially causing a range of health issues. There are different types of sleep apnea, including obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is the most common form. OSA occurs when the muscles in the throat relax, causing the airway to narrow or close, leading to breathing interruptions.

The Oral-Systemic Link:

Emerging evidence suggests that oral health, particularly the presence of tartar and plaque, may influence the development and severity of sleep apnea. Tartar, also known as dental calculus, is a hardened form of plaque that accumulates on teeth surfaces over time. Plaque, on the other hand, is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth when oral hygiene is inadequate. Both tartar and plaque can harbor harmful bacteria that contribute to oral health problems.

The Role of Tartar and Plaque:

Research indicates that tartar and plaque may contribute to the development of sleep apnea through several mechanisms:

Airway Obstruction:

The presence of excessive tartar and plaque can lead to inflammation and infection in the oral cavity. This inflammation can extend to the throat tissues, potentially causing swelling and narrowing of the airway, contributing to the obstruction characteristic of sleep apnea.

Periodontal Disease:

Poor oral hygiene and the accumulation of tartar and plaque can lead to periodontal disease, a condition characterized by gum inflammation and tissue damage. Studies suggest that individuals with periodontal disease may be at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea.

Oral Bacteria and Inflammation:

Harmful bacteria associated with tartar and plaque can trigger an inflammatory response in the body. This systemic inflammation may contribute to the progression and severity of sleep apnea, as inflammation in the upper airway can further compromise breathing during sleep.

Management and Prevention:

Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial for both oral health and the management of sleep apnea.

Here are some key strategies:

Regular Dental Care:

Regular dental check-ups, professional cleanings, and tartar/plaque removal are essential for maintaining oral health. Dentists can also evaluate the condition of the airway and provide guidance on managing sleep apnea.

Oral Hygiene Practices:

Brushing teeth at least twice a day, flossing daily, and using antibacterial mouthwash can help prevent the accumulation of plaque and tartar, reducing the risk of oral health problems and potentially improving sleep apnea symptoms.

Collaboration between Professionals:

Collaboration between dentists and sleep medicine specialists can lead to a more comprehensive approach in managing sleep apnea. Coordinated care may involve oral appliances to help keep the airway open during sleep or a referral to a sleep specialist for further evaluation.


The connection between oral health and sleep apnea, particularly the role of tartar and plaque, highlights the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene for overall well-being. By reducing the accumulation of plaque and tartar through proper oral care and seeking professional dental care regularly, individuals may potentially reduce the risk and severity of sleep apnea. However, further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms underlying