Sleep apnea is a condition that affects how you breathe at night, and it can negatively affect your oral health. If you’re suffering from headaches in the morning, dry mouth or insomnia, sleep apnea could be your problem. Genetics and being overweight increase your likelihood of sleep apnea, but they’re not the only reasons behind it. Sleep apnea therapy is a great option to diagnose your sleeping problems and create a treatment plan that will help you breathe and sleep better at night. Find out how sleep apnea affects your breathing and how you can treat it with these tips!
What Is Sleep Apnea?
If you’re suffering from fatigue or feel like you aren’t getting the rest that you need at night, you might be suffering from sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of this condition and it develops whenever the muscles in your throat and around your tongue relax, blocking air flow to your lungs. When this happens, your breathing will randomly stop and start, which disrupts your sleep. Central sleep apnea isn’t as common as obstructive, but it occurs as the brain stops controlling breathing while you sleep, which is still just as deadly. Sleep apnea can be a deadly condition when not treated since you’re essentially not breathing enough or getting enough oxygen to your brain while sleeping. Currently, 18 million adults are suffering from sleep apnea, with both men and women affected across all age groups. The most common symptom of sleep apnea is chronic snoring, but can also include excessive sleepiness, insomnia, headaches, dry mouth and high blood pressure. In severe cases, some patients who have experienced cardiac arrest, stroke, heart arrhythmia and depression all stem from the effects of untreated sleep apnea. Whether your apnea is mild or severe, you should be evaluated by a medical professional to get the treatment and/or devices that you need to keep your airway open at night. This, along with understanding what is triggering your apnea, will help you feel better quicker and get back to doing the regular activities that you used to do.
Risks and Contributors of Sleep Apnea
While central sleep apnea is fairly easy to understand why it develops, obstructive sleep apnea has multiple contributors that influence the likelihood and severity of you experiencing certain symptoms. Patients who are obese have a higher chance of experiencing sleep apnea as the excess weight around their airways can block air from coming through. Being older and being male also increase your risk of sleep apnea, with men twice as likely to experience it than women. Some patients have narrow airways or a larger neck circumference, which can cut off their airways and cause obstructive sleep apnea. Even having other family members that have it increases your chance of developing it, too. Interestingly, smokers are diagnosed with sleep apnea three times more than non-smokers due to the inflammation and fluid retention that occurs in their airways, causing breathing issues. Sedatives, including alcohol, relax your throat muscles and can make it more difficult to breathe, especially if you already have sleep apnea. No matter what the trigger is behind this condition, beginning treatment as soon as you can will relieve your symptoms almost immediately and help you get back the energy that you’ve been missing in your life.
One of the first things that you’ll receive when being evaluated for sleep apnea is a sleep study. This usually requires an overnight stay at a facility where your vitals such as heart rate, blood oxygen levels, respiratory effort and eye movement, will be monitored. From there, the type and severity of your sleep apnea will be diagnosed and a treatment plan will be developed. Most patients with obstructive sleep apnea will use a continuous positive airway device (CPAP) to control the amount of oxygen that is released into the airways to keep them open and functioning. A CPAP machine uses a mask that fits over the nose and mouth to distribute oxygen. Your dentist can also prescribe you one of two different dental devices that reduce your apnea symptoms. The first is called a Jaw Advancing Device (JAD)/Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD), and it works by moving the jaw forward to increase the size of the airway. This device also helps with snoring, which can be a great relief for your spouse or partner. The second device is called a tongue retaining device and it basically holds the tongue in place while you sleep. This form of treatment is typically used for the mildest form of sleep apnea but it works just as well as the JAD/MAD.
Improve Your Sleep With Our Help!
At Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies, we have successfully diagnosed sleep apnea in many of our dental patients and helped them sleep better again. We develop custom dental devices to use while sleeping so that you don’t have to be fatigued by your apnea. Call our office at (970) 223-8425 to schedule a consultation and improve your breathing!