What is sleep apnea and what does it affect?
Those suffering from sleep apnea may experience sudden bouts of shallow breathing throughout the night. These apneas can occur due to a physical blockage of airflow, a lack of respiratory effort, or both.
There are 3 main types of sleep apnea including:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Central sleep apnea
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome (combination of both)
What are the potential causes of sleep apnea?
When you are sleeping, your oral tissues relax along with the rest of your body. If someone is experiencing sleep apnea, the throat tissues and soft palate over-relax, causing them to collapse into the back of their throat, which then blocks the airway.
When the airway is blocked, the flow of oxygen ceases, and as a result, your brain forces you to wake up slightly to consciously resume breathing. Believe it or not, these disruptions can happen over a hundred times a night.
How are sleep apnea and snoring diagnosed?
Symptoms of sleep apnea include heavy snoring, headaches and migraines upon waking, restless sleep, excessive daytime fatigue, problems focusing, irritability, depression and TMJ symptoms.
Though loud snoring is a notorious symptom and may indicate a potentially serious problem, not everyone who has sleep apnea will snore. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should visit a medical professional so you can receive a proper diagnosis.
Once a medical professional has diagnosed your issue as sleep apnea, the dentist will be able to offer treatment options for managing your symptoms. 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.
Are there dental appliances that can help manage the symptoms of sleep apnea?
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. Some of the benefits of dental appliances include:
- 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?
Your body needs regenerative sleep to help repair damaged cells and restore your tissue. This deep sleep can help decrease the risk of 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 well-being.