Sleep Apnea is a general term describing a disorder in which a person sporadically stops breathing throughout the night, for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute. Snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, memory problems, irritability, fatigue and insomnia are all signs that you could be losing shut-eye to sleep apnea. If left untreated, sleep apnea can be a potentially life-threatening condition. It can increase the risk for other serious health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression and impotence.
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and complex (also called mixed) sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common type, occurs when your muscles relax during sleep, allowing the soft tissue to collapse and block the airway.
Sleep apnea can affect anyone, including children. Men are diagnosed more than women, but as we age, the likelihood of developing sleep apnea levels out, affecting both sexes equally. Being overweight and/or having a large neck circumference (over 17" for men and 15" for women) can increase your chances of developing sleep apnea. Smoking, alcohol, and sedative use put you at a higher risk as well. Sometimes a bed partner (kept awake by the snoring) will hear the person snort or gasp for air when they resume breathing.
- Symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Daytime fatigue/sleepiness
- Startling yourself awake
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headache
- Poor memory/confusion
- High blood pressure.
A diagnosis is made after a detailed exam and either an overnight sleep study (polysomnography or PSG) at a sleep center or a home sleep test (HSAT). Diagnosis is made by a sleep physician after reading the results of the sleep study.
The traditionally prescribed treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy. There are several variations and improvements on this type of treatment: CPAP, Bi-PAP, APAP. They all work by wearing some type of device on the face connected by a tube to a machine that forces air into the airway. Although PAP 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 that fits easily into your lifestyle. Once you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea by a sleep physician, a dentist experienced in dental sleep medicine can make a custom-fitted oral appliance using impressions and models of your teeth. Oral appliance therapy is covered by many medical insurance plans. Patients like it because it’s comfortable, easy to wear, quiet, portable, convenient for travel and easy to clean.
A dental oral appliance looks like a sports mouth guard and is worn only during sleep. It supports the jaw in a forward position. This repositioning moves the tongue away from the back of the throat, reducing the potential for obstruction.
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. Custom-fit oral appliances from Dr. Rosemarie Marquez at St Pete Oral Health Center can improve your sleep, restore your alertness and revitalize your health.
If you have concerns about snoring and sleep apnea, it may be time to make an appointment with Dr. Marquez. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, we can recommend a sleep physician to help get you started on your path to treatment. However, if you have already been diagnosed with sleep apnea, we can fit you with an oral appliance. Our team at St Pete Oral Health Center is ready to answer your questions about obstructive sleep apnea, dental sleep medicine and oral appliance therapy.