What is sleep apnea?
Abnormal pauses in breathing (apneas) or shallow breathing, while an individual sleeps, define sleep apnea. These apneas can happen due to physical obstruction of airflow, lack of respiratory effort, or 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 when you drift into deep sleep. For those with sleep apnea, the throat tissues and soft palate relax excessively, causing them to collapse into the back of your throat, blocking the airway.
Oxygen flow stops if the airway is blocked. As a result, your brain forces you to wake slightly so you can resume breathing consciously. It's possible for these episodes to occur hundreds of times a night and seriously disrupt your sleep.
How are snoring and sleep apnea diagnosed?
Heavy snoring, restless sleep, excessive daytime fatigue, problems focusing, depression, irritability, TMJ symptoms, headaches and migraines upon waking are all symptoms of sleep apnea.
While snoring is one notorious symptom and may point to a potentially serious problem, not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. If you deal with any of these symptoms, we recommend visiting a medical professional so you can receive a proper diagnosis.
Once your issue has been diagnosed by a medical professional, your dentists can help you get a better night’s rest with a number of treatment options. We will complete a full examination of your teeth, tongue, airway and jaw, and potentially take an x-ray of your airway, to determine the right 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 include a wide range of conditions from metabolic syndrome and high blood sugar, which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. You may also experience heart problems, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes and resistance to insulin. Because of your daytime fatigue, you may be at an increased risk of workplace or motor vehicle accidents.
By treating sleep apnea, your dentist can help you improve and protect your overall health and wellbeing.