What is sleep apnea?
A person with sleep apnea experiences irregular breathing pauses (apneas) or shallow breathing while they are asleep. These apneas can be brought on by a real obstruction in the airway, a lack of respiratory effort, or even both.
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?
Your tongue, soft palate, and throat tissues relax as you fall asleep. When you have sleep apnea, your soft palate and throat tissues overstretch, causing them to collapse into the back of your throat and obstruct your airway.
When the airway is blocked, the flow of oxygen ceases, and as a result, your brain forces you to wake up slightly to consciously resume breathing. These episodes may happen hundreds of times a night, seriously disrupting 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.
Your dentists can offer you a variety of treatment options to help you get a better night's sleep after a medical professional diagnoses your condition. To find the best appliance for your requirements, we will thoroughly examine your teeth, tongue, jaw, and airway, and possibly take an x-ray of your airway.
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 role in many medical disorders and diseases, and reduce your life’s quality and longevity.
A wide range of conditions, such as metabolic syndrome and high blood sugar, which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, can be complications. Additionally, you might develop type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart issues, and insulin resistance. You may be more likely to be involved in work-related or driving-related accidents as a result of your daytime fatigue.
By treating sleep apnea, your dentist can help you improve and protect your overall health and well-being.