What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition that can be very easy to spot. It is when someone has an abnormal pause in breathing, known as apneas when they sleep. These apneas can occur due to a physical blockage of airflow, a lack of respiratory effort, or both.
There are three types of sleep apnea that people can suffer from:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Central sleep apnea
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome (occurs when someone has obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea)
What are some causes of sleep apnea?
When you drift into a deep sleep, your throat tissues, soft palate and tongue relax. 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.
If your windpipe gets blocked, oxygen won't be able to flow to your lungs which will result in your brain forcing you to wake up so you can continue to breath. These episodes may happen hundreds of times a 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 it is true that abnormally loud snoring can be a sign of a potentially serious issue, it does not necessarily mean that someone has sleep apnea as not all sleep apnea patients will snore. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should visit a medical professional so you can receive a proper diagnosis.
Once your issue has been diagnosed by a medical professional, your dentists can help you get a better night’s rest with a number of treatment options. 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.
Which sleep apnea devices or oral appliances may be able to 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
- Convenient for travel
- Easy to insert and remove
- Quiet and not disruptive to any bed partners (unlike some sleep apnea machines)
- Comfortable to wear
Why is sleep apnea important to have treated?
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 having your sleep apnea professionally treated by your dental provider, you may experience an improvement in your overall health and wellbeing and protect your oral structures.