Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sleep Apnea – How Your Dentist Can Help

Sleep Apnea – How Your Dentist Can Help

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious condition in which tissues of the mouth and throat create reoccurring respiratory obstruction. This typically occurs when the body is asleep and can most often be identified through the issue of persistent snoring or even gasping and choking. Millions of Americans are affected by obstructive sleep apnea, whether they themselves experience the issue or their sleep partners are kept awake by the volume of the snores. Since sleep apnea reduces air intake, it interferes with oxygen entering the lungs and the circulatory system, resulting in immediate effects like daytime drowsiness, fatigue, depression and irritability, as well as potentially serious long term health risks like stroke, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and heart failure.

Sleep apnea should be treated promptly. While it is easily identified through chronic snoring, if you sleep alone or if snoring is simply dismissed, sleep apnea can easily go unnoticed and the effects and risks will only persist. Anyone can develop sleep apnea, but being overweight or obese, middle-aged or older, male, a frequent drinker, smoker, having a fuller neck circumference, or family history of sleep apnea amount to an increased risk of sleep apnea. Additionally, if you’ve ever gasped awake or you often awake feeling groggy, breathless and experience headaches and dry mouth, you could be affected by sleep apnea and should consult your doctor about being screened.

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, there are a number of treatment options to choose from, and in many cases, your dentist will be able to help. Treatment of sleep apnea requires that the nightly respiratory obstruction is prevented. This can be accomplished through several treatment methods.

A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is frequently used to treat moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea. Through this therapy, a mask and hose is attached to machine which delivers constant air pressure. As the mask is worn at bedtime, the light air pressure keeps the airways of the nose and throat open. This is the most common treatment approach for sleep apnea, although many patients must adjust to wearing the mask and relying upon the machine. Some sleep apnea patients never fully adjust to CPAP therapy and some are simply unable to tolerate this method. While CPAP can be effective, there are alternatives for those sleep apnea patients who are unable to comfortably rely upon this treatment.

Many dental offices can provide sleep apnea oral appliances. This device looks similar to a night guard used for TMJ treatment, but instead of absorbing stress, it’s used to position the jaw so that the tongue and tissues of the oral cavity no longer block the throat. The device is fairly discreet and contained in a way that makes it easy to wear and travel with. Most sleep apnea oral appliances are custom fabricated to ensure the utmost in comfort. A sleep apnea oral appliance can serve as an alternative to CPAP or even as a supplementary treatment. When worn with the CPAP mask, the effects can actually be enhanced.

As a last resort, surgery can be performed to remove excess tissue from the back of the oral cavity or to permanently reposition the jaw so the opening to the throat is expanded. There are also lifestyle modifications that can be used to help minimize sleep apnea, including weight loss, reduction of tobacco use and alcohol intake, regular exercise and changes in sleep position.

No matter the treatment that works best for you, the most important thing is that sleep apnea is controlled and no longer a detriment to your health.

1 comment:

  1. It was really an informative post! I was looking for information regarding this dental problem and found your post. You know I was just thinking to consult my dentist Hermosa Beach regarding this.