What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is marked by abnormal pauses in breathing (apneas) or shallow breathing while a person sleeps. These apneas may happen due to a physical obstruction of oxygen, 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 a deep sleep. For those with sleep apnea, the throat tissues and soft palate over-relax, causing them to collapse into the back of your throat, blocking the airway.
When an obstruction blocks the airway, the flow of oxygen ceases. Your brain forces you to take slightly to consciously resume breathing as a result. These episodes may happen hundreds of times per night, causing a serious disruption to your sleep.
How are snoring and sleep apnea diagnosed?
Sleep apnea symptoms include heavy snoring, headaches and migraines on waking, restless sleep, excessive daytime fatigue, issues focusing, irritability, depression and TMJ symptoms.
While loud snoring is a notorious symptom and may point to a potentially serious problem, not everyone who has sleep apnea will snore. If you experience any of these symptoms, we recommend visiting a medical professional so the issue can be properly diagnosed.
Once a medical professional has diagnosed your condition, your dentists can help you achieve a better night's rest with numerous treatment options. We will complete a full examination of your jaw, airway, teeth and tongue before potentially taking an X-ray of your airway to identify the right appliance to meet 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 role 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 well-being.