What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious and even life-threatening condition that causes low blood oxygen levels. It is a disorder in which breathing during sleep becomes disrupted, resulting in repeated waking, snoring, and, shortness of breath. You may not even know you have sleep apnea, since most people who suffer from it do not remember the experience of snoring or gasping for air while sleeping.
Sleep apnea is generally defined as the presence of more than 30 apneas during a seven-hour period of sleep. During sleep, large tonsils, a large tongue, or excess tissues can obstruct the upper airway. The nasal passages, the position of the jaw, and the airway muscles may also contribute to sleep apnea. When the airflow is blocked, the oxygen levels in the brain become low and the cessation of breathing or “apnea,” wakes the person up so they are able to restart the breathing process. The sleeper usually wakes up with a loud gasp and returns to sleep.
The risks of untreated sleep apnea include heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart disease, decreased libido, and drowsiness.
Repeated cycles of decreased oxygenation lead to very serious cardiovascular problems. Additionally, these individuals suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, depression and loss of concentration. If a partner tells you have been snoring during the night, or you feel sleep deprived and are experiencing other symptoms associated with sleep apnea, your doctor can help.
Depending on the cause and severity of your sleep apnea, your doctor will decide which treatment is best for you. This can range from behavior modification to oral appliances such as an air pressure device. Surgery may be an option for some patients, but it is important to keep in mind that it is not successful for all patients.
An initial treatment may consist of using a nasal CPAP machine that delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask to limit obstruction at night. One surgical option is an uvulo-palato-pharyngo-plasty (UPPP), which is performed in the back of the soft palate and throat. In more complex cases, the bones of the upper and lower jaw may be repositioned to increase the size of the airway. This is considered orthognathic surgery and is usually performed in the hospital under general anesthesia.
Consult your doctor if you snore and have any of the following symptoms or signs:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Morning headaches
- Recent weight gain
- Change in your attention level, concentration or memory
- Pauses in breathing while sleeping
- Restless sleep
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain at night
- Wake up choking or gasping for air
Sleep Apnea Treatments
New studies show that dental sleep apnea devices can help keep your mouth and jaw positioned during the night so that you can breathe unobstructed. The device keeps your jaw from relaxing into an open position and constricting your throat muscles. If you or a loved one is suffering from sleep apnea, call our practice to see how new dental technology can help you sleep well and improve your overall health.
- Dental/Oral Appliance - This custom-fit oral appliance is worn at night and brings the lower jaw forward during sleep.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)- To keep your airway open during sleep, a machine at your bedside blows pressurized aire into a mask that you wear over your nose.
- Traditional Surgery- such Uvulopalatophayngoplasty (UPPP), Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty (TAP), Tonsillectomy, and adenoidectomy can increase the size of your airway by surgically removing tissues or correcting abnormalities.
Research shows that oral appliance therapy is an effective treatment option for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. A custom-fit oral sleep appliance can improve your sleep, restore your alertness and restore your health. An oral appliance is a clear device that is worn in the mouth only while you sleep and fits like a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. The appliance supports your lower jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open airway.
Patients love oral appliances because they are effective and non-invasive. Oral appliances are:
- Comfortable and easy to wear
- Easy to carry and store
- Easy to keep clean
Oral appliances are customized using dental impressions and models of your teeth. These models are sent to a dental laboratory where the appliance is made. Your dentist will adjust the appliance to maximize its effectiveness and comfort. Your doctor will continue to monitor your sleep study to verify treatment success.
Treating snoring or obstructive sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy can help you feel like a new person. You will find that your symptoms have decreased and your quality of life has increased. It is likely that you will sleep better, have more energy and feel more alert throughout the day. Treating snoring and sleep apnea promotes a healthier heart, body and mind.