What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder. Although traditionally doctors viewed it as affecting overweight people in particular, in fact it can happen to anyone, even the most trim and athletic among us.
This condition causes multiple episodes while you sleep. During an episode, your airflow is temporarily cut off. As a result, your body awakens – sometimes so subtly you don't realize it – in order to restore breathing.
Why is your breathing cut off? This type of sleep apnea is caused when muscles associated with your airway (the throat, back of the mouth, even your tongue) relax so excessively that they block your airway. It's called "obstructive" sleep apnea, which describes the obstruction of the airway. There is another type, central sleep apnea, caused by failure of the brain to signal breathing. That type is less common and cannot be treated with dental appliances.
You probably aren't aware of symptoms if you are experiencing them. Perhaps someone has pointed them out to you. Perhaps you've grown concerned because you aren't able to get a good night's sleep. Whatever your reasons, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor right away if you are concerned. A positive diagnosis can get you on your way to effective treatment, which is essential to avoid serious complications associated with this sleep disorder.
Potential Red Flags indicating Sleep Apnea
Signs of sleep apnea often include one or more of the following:
- Loud snoring
- Frequent headaches, especially in the morning
- Waking up with a dry, scratchy throat due to snoring
- Waking up suddenly during the night, with the feeling that you are gasping for air
- Pauses in your breathing while you sleep, which can be impossible for you to know about but may be noticed by a bedroom partner
- Abundant daytime fatigue, which may be so excessive that you have trouble working, driving and focusing
- Irritability and other mood changes
You may experience a single symptom or many. A loved one or friend may have voiced concern based on loud snoring. The important thing is to seek diagnosis and treatment promptly. Continued sleep apnea episodes stress your heart and body, and make it impossible to get restorative sleep. Complications linked to sleep apnea include high blood pressure, heart problems, stroke and sudden death.
Once your doctor diagnoses sleep apnea, they may recommend a dental appliance for treating it. This is one option. Another common treatment is a CPAP machine, which is essentially an air mask you wear while you sleep. Your doctor will tell you which treatment is right for you. If a dental appliance will work, many patients prefer them because CPAP machines can be uncomfortable to wear and inconvenient to travel with.
At the Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, our experienced dentists use a mouth piece customized to your teeth and jaws, to hold the lower jaw forward. Doing so prevents blockage of the airway while you sleep. It looks similar to a retainer. It fits over your teeth, and is also referred to as a mouth splint or oral appliance. It effectively holds the airway open, allowing the flow of oxygen while you sleep.
Your Exam and Consultation
If you live in Rochester, Webster, Greece, Fairport or any of the surrounding areas of New York, please call our practice to learn more. We'd be happy to arrange a consultation for you. Our dentists will review your sleep apnea history and determine if a dental appliance is an option. If it is, you will come back to our office for impressions of your teeth, so that the custom splint can be designed. To arrange your appointment, please call our staff at 585-227-4390.