Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during the night. You may have sleep apnea if you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep. If you think you might have sleep apnea, see your doctor so he/she can refer you for a sleep study and then call our office for a no-charge consultation to determine if you are a candidate for a form-fitting dental mouthpiece or anti-snoring device.
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. There are two main types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea - this more common form occurs when throat muscles relax and block airways during sleep.
- Central sleep apnea - occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. This type of sleep apnea requires treatments that generally do not involve dentistry or oral-related solutions.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The most noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring.
Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea, although it most commonly affects middle-aged or older adults and people who are overweight. Obstructive sleep apnea treatment may involve using a device to keep your airway open or using a mouthpiece to thrust your jaw forward during sleep. Some undergo a procedure to change the structure of their nose, mouth, or throat. Olive Dental Group can custom make a mouthpiece for you at our office.
Signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
- Loud snoring
- Observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep
- Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath
- Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headache
- Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
- Difficult-to-control high blood pressure
The Time for Help:
Call us for a snore appliance consultation if you experience, or if your partner observes, the following:
- Snoring loud enough to disturb your sleep or that of others
- Shortness of breath that awakens you from sleep
- Intermittent pauses in your breathing during sleep
- Excessive daytime drowsiness, which may cause you to fall asleep while you’re working, watching television or even driving a vehicle
Many people don’t think of snoring as a sign of a potentially serious health condition, and not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea. However, be sure to talk to your doctor if you experience loud snoring, especially if it is punctuated by periods of silence. With obstructive sleep apnea, snoring typically is loudest when you sleep on your back, and it quiets when you turn on your side.
Ask your doctor about any sleep problem that leaves you chronically fatigued, sleepy, and irritable. Excessive daytime drowsiness (hypersomnia) may be due to other disorders, such as narcolepsy.
Your doctor may make an evaluation based on your signs and symptoms, or may refer you to a sleep disorder center. There, a sleep specialist can help decide whether you need further evaluation. The evaluation may involve overnight monitoring of your breathing and other body functions during sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. These muscles support structures including the soft palate, uvula (a triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate), tonsils, and tongue.
When the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in and breathing may be inadequate for 10 to 20 seconds. This may lower the level of oxygen in your blood. Your brain senses this impaired breathing and briefly rouses you from sleep, so you can reopen your airway. This awakening is usually so brief that you don’t remember it. You may make a snorting, choking or gasping sound. This pattern can repeat itself five to 30 times or more each hour, all night long. These disruptions impair your ability to reach the desired deep and restful phases of sleep, and you’ll probably feel sleepy during your waking hours.
People with obstructive sleep apnea may not be aware that their sleep was interrupted. In fact, many people with this type of sleep apnea think they slept well all night.
The same treatments that may help with snoring can also be applied to help with obstructive sleep apnea. In addition to lifestyle changes, your doctors are likely to treat you with either a CPAP or a dental mouthpiece.
CPAP: The most common treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This approach involves wearing a pressurized mask over your nose while you sleep. The mask is attached to a small pump that forces air through your airway, which keeps it open. CPAP eliminates snoring and prevents sleep apnea. Although CPAP is the preferred and most effective method of treating obstructive sleep apnea, some people find it uncomfortable or have trouble adjusting to the noise of the machine.
Dental Mouthpiece: For patients that cannot wear a CPAP, we can fabricate a form-fitting dental mouthpiece that helps advance the position of your tongue and soft palate to keep your air passage open. This only involves an initial impression, and within 2 weeks we will receive your custom made appliance and fit it to your mouth. Excessive salivation, dry mouth, jaw pain and facial discomfort are possible side effects from wearing these devices.
While positive airway pressure is nearly always an effective treatment, oral appliances such as dental mouthpieces are a successful alternative for some people. These devices are designed to keep your throat open. Some do so by bringing your jaw forward, which can sometimes relieve snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Others hold your tongue in a different position. If you decide to explore this option, call us to schedule a no-charge consultation. After your initial consultation we can fabricate a dental sleep medicine appliance for you and continue to monitor you for the fitting and follow-up therapy. Close follow-up is needed to ensure successful treatment.