Sleep Apnea is becoming an increasingly prevalent disease affecting 12-18 million adult Americans, and it often goes undiagnosed. Sleep apnea can’t be detected during routine office visits, nor can a blood test can diagnose the condition. And while it used to be thought to affect only middle-aged and/or overweight adults, we are learning that it can also affect kids.
Some symptoms of sleep apnea are:
- Waking up tired or unrefreshed in the morning
- Falling asleep during the day
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Memory problems and difficulty concentrating
- Morning or night headaches (about half of all people with sleep apnea report morning headaches)
- Heart burn at night
- Frequently needing to get up at night to urinate
- Swelling of the legs
- Waking up gasping for breath
- Sweating and chest pain while sleeping
- Short cessation in breathing
- Restless tossing and turning at night
- There may be other symptoms – always talk to your doctor
So Why is a Dentist Involved?
With central sleep apnea, the brain doesn’t signal the message to breathe. The most common type of sleep apnea, however, is obstructive sleep apnea. The gold standard for treatment of obstructive sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure, or a similar machine, that uses positive airway pressure to help you breathe. Oral appliance therapy can also be used. In any therapy, your dentist should work closely with your sleep physician or primary care provider to treat this condition.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your muscles relax during sleep, allowing the soft tissue to collapse and block the airway. As a result, you stop breathing for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute hundreds of times a night. Snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, memory problems, irritability, fatigue and insomnia are all signs that you could be affected by sleep apnea. If left untreated, sleep apnea can be a potentially life threatening condition, increasing the risk for other serious health problems like high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression and impotence.
The traditionally prescribed treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. It involves sleeping with a face mask connected by tubing to a constantly running machine. Although CPAP is effective, up to half of patients don’t adhere to the treatment. Dentists can provide an alternate sleep solution with oral appliance therapy.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy is an effective, non-invasive treatment option for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. A dental oral appliance is custom-made from impressions of your teeth and looks like a sports mouth guard you wear only during sleep. It supports the jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway, preventing sleep apnea and snoring. Oral appliance therapy is covered by many medical insurance plans, and patients like it because it’s comfortable, easy to wear, quiet, portable, convenient for travel and easy to clean.
Treating snoring or sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy can help you feel like a new person. You will find that your symptoms and your quality of life can improve dramatically when you remain committed to your treatment and use it nightly.
If you have concerns about snoring and sleep apnea, it may be time to make an appointment. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, we can recommend a sleep physician to help get you started on your path to treatment. If you have already been diagnosed with sleep apnea, we are here to answer your questions about obstructive sleep apnea, dental sleep medicine, and can fit you for oral appliance therapy.
Learn more with these helpful resources:
Sleep Appliances and Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
TMD / TMJ
I have been involved in treating TMD or (temporomandibular joint dysfunction) for many years. When working with individuals with sleep apnea sometimes this can be factor. For someone that is having symptoms of TMD I will carefully go through an examination that determines the causes of this. “TMD” is a broad term and we will work together to develop a treatment plan to make you comfortable.