What is sleep apnea?
Shallow breathing while sleeping or irregular breathing pauses (apneas) are symptoms of sleep apnea. These apneas may be brought on by an actual obstruction of the airway, a lack of respiratory effort, or a combination of the two.
There are three types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Central sleep apnea
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome (occurs when someone has obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea)
What causes sleep apnea?
When you drift into deep sleep, your throat tissues, soft palate and tongue relax. For those with sleep apnea, the throat tissues and soft palate over-relax, causing them to collapse into the back of your throat, blocking the airway.
When the airway is blocked, the flow of oxygen stops, and your brain forces you to slightly wake up in order to consciously resume breathing. These episodes can occur hundreds of times per night, causing significant disruption to your sleep.
How are snoring and sleep apnea diagnosed?
Symptoms of sleep apnea include heavy snoring, headaches and migraines upon waking, restless sleep, excessive daytime fatigue, problems focusing, irritability, depression and TMJ symptoms.
Though loud snoring is a notorious symptom and may indicate a potentially serious problem, not everyone who has sleep apnea will snore. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should visit a medical professional so you can receive a proper diagnosis.
Once your problem has been diagnosed by a medical professional, your dentists can help you get a better night's sleep with a variety of treatment options. We will perform a thorough examination of your teeth, tongue, airway, and jaw, as well as possibly take an x-ray of your airway, to determine the best appliance for your needs.
What sleep apnea devices or oral appliances can help?
Dental appliances can help by positioning your lower jaw further forward, effectively pulling your tongue away from the throat and the soft palate to open your airway. These dental appliances are:
- Easy to care for
- Comfortable to wear
- Easy to insert and remove
- Quiet and not disruptive to any bed partners (unlike some sleep apnea machines)
- Convenient for travel
Why is it important to treat sleep apnea?
If you have sleep apnea, you will be unable to fall into a deep, restorative sleep that recharges your brain and body. This can play a roll in many medical disorders and diseases, and reduce your life’s quality and longevity.
Complications can range from metabolic syndrome to high blood sugar, both of which are linked to an increased risk of heart disease. You may also have heart problems, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance. You may be more likely to be involved in a workplace or motor vehicle accident as a result of your daytime fatigue.
By treating sleep apnea, your dentist can help you improve and protect your overall health and wellbeing.