talkhealth meets... Professor Ama Johal

For those who snore, and their partners, the quest to find a solution to their nightly orchestra can be a long one. That's why we've got Professor Ama Johal on board for an expert webinar in May! To give you a taster for what's to come, he answered talkhealth's questions...

Professor Ama Johal is a specialist in the field of orthodontics, our canines and how they affect our sleep. On Wednesday 21 July (13:00), he will be joining us for an expert webinar on all things snoring, sleep apnoea and dental health. 

Before the event, we wanted to get to know him a little better. In this interview, he breaks down the link between teeth and sleep and tells us why dental health matters so much for our eight hours.




How did you come to specialise in sleep conditions and dentistry?

I qualified with a degree in dentistry from Sheffield University in 1989, I carried this interest forward into my post-graduate studies and I based my PHD on sleep conditions and dentistry. I worked in orthodontics and children’s dentistry clinics and my interest in it continues to this day.

How are sleep and teeth linked?

The jaw and teeth are not only potentially contributory to sleep problems, they are also the key to treatment success. The jaw position can lead to the collapse of the upper airway which leads to snoring and sleep apnoea. The teeth are important for the applications of oral treatments like mouthguards.

What dental signs do you look out for when someone complains about losing sleep?

Jaw position, a misaligned jaw can affect the tongue position when you sleep which can cause snoring or sleep apnoea. I can also tell when someone might be losing sleep because of wear on their teeth and damage to their cheeks and tongue which could be a sign that they are grinding their teeth. This is what we call bruxism.

Is it easier for a dentist or a GP to diagnose sleep apnoea? Do both practitioners have to work together to reach a diagnosis?

Yes. Dentists and GPs are both optimally positioned to screen for sleep-related breathing disorders and refer to a sleep specialist. This means that both practitioners can identify potential problems before sending someone to an expert who will be able to diagnose them with a condition.

What dental solutions can be used for treating sleep issues?

Patients can be provided with a custom-made oral appliance, designed to be worn at night-time. These mouthguard-like devices gradually move the lower jaw forwards in a gentle, incremental fashion. This allows for the back of the airway to open and prevents it from collapsing during sleep which is the reason why people snore and can struggle with breathing when they are asleep.

Are men more likely to be affected by dental/sleep issues? Does age have anything to do with it?

Yes, men are more likely to be affected by these problems than women because of the differences in their upper airway. However, frequency in females increases after menopause. Age is also an aggravating factor because of the changes in muscle function that occur as we get older.

How important is it for people to deal with dental-related sleep issues quickly? Why?

It is important to undergo a simple screening investigation. Some of the more severe sleep-related breathing disorders can have a very negative impact on the health of a patient and their partner. Not only does sleep obstruction contribute to worsening memory, depression and confusion, but a lack of oxygen caused by sleep apnoea can also affect a person’s respiratory and endocrine systems.

If you need some extra support for your dental or sleep hygiene, our talksleep hub and mysleep support programme are always open. Sign up to our mysleep support programme today to be in the chance of winning great giveaways from Emma: The Sleep Company

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 16 June 2021
Next review: 16 June 2024