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 a dental solution for mild to moderate cases of sleep-related breathing disorders like sleep apnea. Our appliances are custom made because we believe that no two smiles are the same. These appliances push your jaw into a forward position and help to keep it open to prevent soft tissues from blocking the airflow while you sleep.
Oral appliances are a comfortable and easy solution for managing sleep apnea and snoring. It is great for those who have otherwise great oral health or are unable to tolerate a CPAP machine. This form of treatment can be more convenient and comfortable for some patients compared to the CPAP machine. However, some patients may experience jaw pain or soreness, tender teeth and gums, dry mouth, damaged bite, and loosening of dental restorations.