What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is characterized by irregular breathing pauses (apneas) or shallow breathing while a person is sleeping. These apneas can be caused by a physical obstruction of airflow, a lack of respiratory effort, or a combination of the two.
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?
When you fall asleep, your throat tissues, soft palate, and tongue relax. With sleep apnea, the throat tissues and soft palate over-relax, causing them to collapse into the back of your throat and block the airway.
When the airway is blocked, the flow of oxygen stops, and your brain forces you to wake up slightly to consciously resume breathing. These episodes can occur hundreds of times per night, seriously disrupting your sleep.
How are snoring and sleep apnea 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.
Even though snoring loudly is a well-known symptom and could point to a potentially serious issue, not everyone with sleep apnea snores.The best course of action is to see a doctor if you experience any of these signs and symptoms so that you can get a correct diagnosis.
Your dentists have a variety of treatment options available to help you get a better night's sleep after a medical professional has diagnosed your problem. To find the best appliance for you, we'll conduct a thorough examination of your teeth, tongue, jaw, airway, and teeth, and we might even take an x-ray of your airway.
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?
You will be unable to fall into a deep, restorative sleep that recharges your brain and body if you have sleep apnea. This can contribute to a variety of medical disorders and diseases, as well as lower the quality and length of your life.
Complications can range from metabolic syndrome to high blood sugar, both of which are linked to an increased risk of heart disease. You may also have heart problems, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance. You may be more likely to be involved in a workplace or motor vehicle accident as a result of your daytime fatigue.
By treating sleep apnea, your dentist can help you improve and protect your overall health and well-being.