What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by constant interruptions in breathing throughout the sleep cycle. This condition occurs because the upper airways repeatedly collapse during the night, preventing normal breathing during sleep.
Sleep apnea disrupts the sleep cycle and can have a drastic impact on energy, mental performance, and long-term health. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you may have sleep apnea.
The main types of sleep apnea are the following:Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form, which occurs when the throat muscles relaxCentral sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain does not send correct signals to the muscles that control breathingComplex sleep apnea syndrome, also called treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, which occurs when someone has obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea
The most common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include the following:
- Loud snoring
- Episodes where you stop breathing during sleep (pointed out by someone else)
- Gasping when breathing during sleep
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Headache in the morning
- Trouble staying asleep (insomnia)
- Feeling of excessive sleepiness during the day (hypersomnia).
- Difficulty paying attention while awake
Loud snoring can indicate a potentially serious problem, but not everyone with sleep apnea snores. Talk to your doctor if you have signs or symptoms of sleep apnea. Ask your doctor about any sleep problems that make you feel tired, sleepy, or irritable. Treatment can relieve symptoms, and may help prevent heart problems and other complications.
For milder cases of sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend only a few lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking. If you have nasal allergies, your doctor will recommend an allergy treatment.
If these measures do not improve signs and symptoms, or if the apnea is moderate to severe, there are other treatments available.
Some devices can help open a blocked airway. In other cases, you may need surgery.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). If you have moderate to severe sleep apnea, there is a machine that exerts air pressure through a mask while you sleep. In the case of continuous positive airway pressure, the air pressure is slightly higher than ambient air and sufficient to clear your airway, preventing apnea and snoring.
While this procedure is the most common and reliable method of treating sleep apnea, some find it cumbersome and uncomfortable. Some abandon the continuous positive airway pressure machine, but with some practice, most people learn to adjust the tension on the straps to make the device comfortable and secure.
Other airway pressure devices. If the continuous positive airway pressure machine is still a problem for you, you can use another type of airway pressure device that automatically adjusts the pressure while you sleep.
Oral devices. Another option is to use a mouthpiece designed to keep the throat open. The continuous positive airway pressure device is more reliable and effective than oral devices, but the latter are easier to use. Some are designed to open the throat by pushing the jawbone forward, sometimes relieving snoring and mild obstructive sleep apnea.
Your dentist may recommend several devices. You may have to try different devices to find one that works for you.
Once you find the right fit, you will need to follow up with your dentist several times during the first year and then periodically to ensure the fit remains good and to reassess your signs and symptoms
Adaptive servoventilation. This airway device was recently approved; the device learns your normal breathing pattern and stores the information on an integrated computer. When you fall asleep, the machine uses pressure to normalize your breathing and prevent you from having pauses.
Adaptive servoventilation appears to be more effective than other forms of positive airway pressure in treating complex sleep apnea in some people.
Surgery: According to the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, upper airway surgery may be recommended when other treatment options have failed to eliminate the symptoms of apnea. Depending on the location and nature of the airway obstruction, the procedure may be minimally invasive or more complex. Tonsils or other parts of the soft palate or throat may need to be removed.
It is comforting to know that our oral health is in the hands of dental professionals in whom we trust our smile. Still, it is necessary to advise people that dental treatments are lasting as long as patients will adopt the measures required to ensure the longevity of your dental crown or bridge, such as:
It will be essential to keep your gums and teeth healthy by brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day along with daily flossing.
Go to the hygienist or dentist regularly for regular check-ups and professional cleanings.
At Channel Island Family Dental, we offer our patients the best quality dental crowns. Visit us to find out about our dental services.