Friday, January 8, 1999 Published at 00:45 GMT
Dentures: the secret of a good night's sleep
Wearing dentures may help keep the airways clear
Scientists may have stumbled on a way to reduce serious breathing difficulties while asleep - keep your dentures in.
Most people who wear full dentures take them out at night for reasons of hygiene.
However, this practice may lead to breathing difficulties.
In a research letter in the medical journal The Lancet, researchers from the University of Turin, Italy, report the case of an obese man aged 44 years who developed obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
OSA is a fairly common disorder, found in around 18% of elderly people. Sufferers experience laboured and interrupted breathing while asleep caused by blocked or collapsed airways.
The patient, who suffered from chest pain and a severe cough, had recently had all his teeth extracted because of severe tooth decay.
Tests of the patient's breathing when asleep showed that when the patient slept with his dentures out, his breathing was interrupted almost twice as often as when he slept with his dentures in place.
The researchers conclude that around 10% of people with OSA who wear dentures may experience increased breathing difficulties if they sleep with their teeth out.
Dentists generally recommend removal of dentures during the night, since constant wearing can increase the risk of irritations and infections.
But the authors write: "Our findings suggest that in patients with OSA, the advantages of removing dentures during sleep should be weighted against the risk of worsening upper airway collapse."