University of Central Florida

05/31/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/31/2024 11:18

Research in 60 Seconds: How Dental Issues Cause Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Whether it's solving the world's biggest problems or investigating the potential of novel discoveries, researchers at UCF are on the edge scientific breakthroughs that aim to make an impact. Through the Research in 60 Seconds series, student and faculty researchers condense their complex studies into bite-sized summaries so you can know how and why Knights plan to improve our world.

Name: Maria Martinez
Major:Psychology with a pre-dental track

Why are you interested in this research?
My interest in this research stemmed from my own airway problems that have caused my own set of sleeping problems with both an adequate quantity and quality of sleep. Noting the impact it has had on me in both academic and social interactions, I wanted to dive into this area of medicine and determine if this was an issue that more students, like me, suffer from. With my professional goal of becoming a dentist, I wanted to tie in this field of medicine with my love of dentistry and assess the bi-directional relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and oral manifestations.

How did you get started in research at UCF? Who is your mentor?

Are you a student or faculty member conducting research at UCF? We want to hear from you! Tell us about your research at

Upon arriving at UCF, I didn't originally anticipate undergoing my own independent research. It wasn't until one of my closest friends from the Pre-Dental Student Association (PDSA) at UCF began her Honors Undergraduate Thesis (HUT)program that I found myself deeply interested in conducting my own research. From there, I began attending workshops from the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) office and began the process of applying to the HUT program.

Dr. [Keith] Brazendale, [an assistant professor of health sciences] has been a wonderful thesis chair and mentor for me throughout the process of writing my thesis. He has inspired me by being someone who genuinely cares and devotes himself to his research and his work. Dr. Brazendale has gone the extra mile as a thesis chair by always providing much needed assistance and advice while also pushing me toward being a better student and researcher. Dr. Puerto has played (and continues to play) a pivotal mentorship role in my dental professional trajectory, by continuously taking meunder her wing and going the extra mile to further fuel my knowledge and love for this career. She has not only been my mentor, but an inspiration to the level of commitment and compassion a dentist must have.

Who inspires you and how?
My parents and brother have always been a source of inspiration for me. Their resilience, work ethic, compassion, commitment and integrity are qualities that I hold highly. Realizing the extents they went to and the sacrifices they made to move to this country and provide me with these opportunities, is a debt I could never repay. My best friend has continuously helped form the foundation on some of my personal values and has given me the strength and motivation to tackle these challenges head-on. She continuously seeks self-growth and development and those are attributes thathave always inspired me. However, I firmly believe that every interaction I've had has served as a source of inspiration in its own unique ways and has taught me something valuable.

How does UCF empower you to do your research?
UCF has an amazing community of like-minded individuals that has empowered me to do my research. UCF continuously offers you various resources, workshops and research conference opportunities. The Student Scholar Symposium (SSS), held during UCF's Student Research Week, encourages both undergraduate and graduate students to channel their creativity and showcase their research. UCF has as well encouraged and even funded students like myself toparticipate in the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC). There is a sense of pride and encouragement that comes from attending these research conferences that further fuel and empower you during your time in conducting research.

Why is this research important?
Sleep medicine is a relatively new field of medicine in which dental professionals have begun incorporating their practice and skills to offset the signs and symptoms associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). What many patients suffering from OSA do not realize is the negative medical consequences that can arise from having OSA such as higher rates of epilepsy, strokes, coronary artery disease and neuromuscular conditions. Research has proven common oral manifestations that may arise due to suffering from OSA. A bi-directional relationship was determined by the twofactors in which patients with a dental history of an enlarged tongue, torus mandibularis, or maxillomandibular retrusion with different occlusion classes has been shown to increase your likelihood of developing OSA in the future. Common oral complications that may arise from being diagnosed and suffering from OSA include an increase in dry mouth leading to an increase in tooth decay, increase in fungal infections in the mouth, redness of the soft palate, increase in periodontal disease, and an increase in bruxism, which is the clenching and grinding of the teeth.

There is a big misconception that OSA is a sleep-related breathing disorder that is only present amongst the older aged population. Thus, few studies have explored the prevalence of OSA in college aged students (18-25) and assessed thecommon oral manifestations with this population group. As OSA can still be an important and prevalent disorder amongst this population group, conversations must be had about its prevalence and common signs and symptoms that must be made aware. Oral hygiene improvement and prevention methods geared explicitly toward patients suffering from OSA. Thus, the present study will investigate the potential relationship between OSA and oral manifestations in college students.

How to Get Involved with Research at UCF

  • F-LEARN @ UCF: A living-learning community for STEM students entering UCF from high school that provides hands-on early research opportunity for academic success.
  • Getting Started Workshops: The Office of Research hosts workshops that inform students about how to get started in research and find a faculty member to work with and the first steps on getting started in research.
  • Honors Undergraduate Thesis: Over the course of two to four semesters, students work closely with a faculty committee to research, write, defend, and publish an original thesis that serves as an honors capstone product of their undergraduate career.
  • Introduction to Research and Creative Scholarship Opportunities (INTRO) Mentoring Program: A semester-long immersive, classroom experience offered in fall and spring semesters that provides students ways to get connected to research opportunities. This program is available in person or online.
  • Office of Undergraduate Research: OUR is dedicated to cultivating and supporting world-class research at UCF. Students can connect with the office for any questions they may have about research or to find opportunities.
  • Peer Mentoring: This program connects students with experienced undergraduate researchers who will provide guidance on how to get started and get support through research experiences.
  • Research Positions Database: This online resource allows students to discover research opportunities with UCF researchers across various disciplines. Please note faculty contact information is password protected, but students can gain access by attending a peer mentoring session, completing the Research Roadmaps webcourse, and through other engagement opportunities.
  • Research Roadmaps Webcourse: The is an online, non-credit, self-paced course that introduces students to research opportunities at UCF. It provides the same information as peer mentoring sessions or a workshop, but at your own pace. Completion of this course also provides you access to the Research Positions Database.
  • SONA: This is a research participation system that allows students who are looking to become participants in studies, usually in exchange for course credit, to find opportunities. The College of Health Professions and Sciences, College of Business and Department of Psychology are among some of the units at UCF that list opportunities here.
  • Summer Research Academy: A three-day event in July that's designed to support UCF undergraduate students across all majors who are interested in participating in research and creative scholarship. This is an ideal opportunity for students who want to begin research in the fall.
  • T-LEARN @ UCF: A living-learning community for first-year, transfer students at UCF who have already earned an Associate in Arts degree. T-LEARN provides a select group of students interested in STEM hands-on learning experiences by helping them engage in research.

Are you a student or faculty member conducting research at UCF? We want to hear from you! Tell us about your research at

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