Sleep Apnea Treatment
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
The term “sleep apnea” refers to the condition in which a person’s breathing stops during sleep. Characterized by loud and frequent snoring, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the tongue and soft palate collapse onto the back of the throat, blocking the upper airway. This obstruction causes you to stop breathing up to hundreds of times a night for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening disease that can increase the risk for serious health problems. These problems include congestive heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and impotence.
Who has Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common problem that can affect people of any age and body type. The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine reports that at least 25 million adults in the United States suffer from sleep apnea.
Although sleep apnea can occur at any age, the risk increases as you get older. While the sleep disorder is more common in men, it can occur in women too, especially during and after menopause. Having excess body weight, a narrow airway, a recessed chin or misaligned jaw all can increase the risk of sleep apnea.
How do I Know if I Have Sleep Apnea?
Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is, are you getting a good night’s sleep? If not, try recording yourself sleeping or ask your bed partner to listen while you sleep. Pay attention to the following warning signs.
- Loud, frequent snoring – Loud and frequent snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea.
- Breathing pauses – By definition, sleep apnea involves repeated breathing pauses throughout the night. Your bed partner may hear you gasp for breath in your sleep or may wait (slightly panicked) to hear you take your next breath.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (the ability to fall asleep anywhere, at any time)
- Memory problems
- Irritability or moodiness
- Decreased sex drive or impotence
- Morning headaches
- Acid reflux symptoms such as indigestion and heartburn or chest pain
Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Oral Appliance Therapy
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 the 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 that fits easily into your lifestyle. A dental oral appliance looks like a sports mouth guard and is worn only during sleep. It supports the jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway, preventing sleep apnea and snoring.