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What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition that makes it difficult for your body (while sleeping) to receive oxygen you need to properly function. Without enough oxygen, you may feel drained and sluggish, but since the condition manifests itself at night, most people have no idea they have it.

How does sleep apnea impact my life?

There are many health problems that can arise from untreated sleep apnea. They can include a stroke, high blood pressure, headache, diabetes, mood swings, heart failure, ADHD, and even overall lack of well-being. Without enough oxygen, your body will have a difficult time functioning. Besides the health issues, this can translate into not having enough energy to stay awake past dinner, falling asleep in your favorite chair, enjoying family functions, enjoying outdoor activities, or falling asleep at the wheel. When you are tired the day-to-day activities can put you to sleep. Your quality of life will diminish.

What are the two types of sleep apnea?

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) When you have OSA, you have an obstruction of the airway while you sleep. As a result, you will have decreased oxygen levels. Your tongue can also block your airway, making it difficult to breathe clearly while you are sleeping. Therefore, people with OSA will typically snore or sound like they are choking in their sleep. This is one of the signs that your body is trying to move the tongue or clear the airway in order to breathe. Another cause of OSA is having too much fatty tissue in the back of your throat. This is one reason obesity is a risk factor for OSA.

  • Central Sleep Apnea. In this condition, the brain is responsible for the sleep apnea. By not sending signals to the muscles in charge of breathing, your body will fail to respond as it should. This is not something that can be treated by a dentist, but instead, you will need to see a specialist.

How is sleep apnea treated?

We work directly with sleep specialists to determine if you have sleep apnea. A sleep study may be recommended by the specialist. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea the specialist will determine whether a CPAP machine or an oral appliance (customized appliance that fits snuggly and securely in your mouth) is the best treatment.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Oral Appliance Therapy

Our goal is to manage sleep apnea and snoring for those who are CPAP-intolerant or those who do not require CPAP. To help you accomplish this, you will find information to better understand sleep apnea and snoring, along with treatments for these sleep disrupting problems. One of these treatments is the use of a special oral appliance. Dental management with oral appliances just may be the solution you are looking for. We work hand-in-hand with your physician and your dentist to help alleviate these issues. When appropriate, we may have physical therapists, neurologists, medical sleep specialists, or others join the treatment team in order to provide the most effective treatment possible.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your muscles relax during sleep, allowing the soft tissue to collapse and block the airway. As a result, sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing up to hundreds of times a 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.

The traditionally prescribed treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. It involves sleeping with a face mask connected by tubing to a constantly running machine. Although CPAP 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 an effective, non-invasive treatment option for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea that fits easily into your lifestyle. A dental oral appliance looks like a sports mouth guard and is worn only during sleep. It supports the jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway, preventing sleep apnea and snoring.

Once you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea by a sleep physician, a dentist experienced in dental sleep medicine can make a custom-fitted oral appliance using impressions and models of your teeth. Oral appliance therapy is covered by many medical insurance plans. Patients like it because it’s comfortable, easy to wear, quiet, portable, convenient for travel and easy to clean.

Treating snoring or sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy can help you feel like a new person. You will find that your symptoms, and your quality of life, can improve dramatically when you remain committed to your treatment and use it nightly.

If you have concerns about snoring and sleep apnea, it may be time to make an appointment. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, we can recommend a sleep physician to help get you started on your path to treatment. If you have already been diagnosed with sleep apnea, we can fit you with an oral appliance.