Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which you stop breathing while asleep. Periods of non-breathing last 10 or more seconds and occur repeatedly throughout the night. You could be experiencing one, two or hundreds of non-breathing episodes throughout each night. These episodes of non-breathing cause you to wake up and gasp for air, thus preventing you from getting the deep sleep that your bodies requires.
It is estimated that more than 18 million Americans are suffering from sleep apnea. Unfortunately, the majority of these people are unaware that they have sleep apnea. The most obvious sign of sleep apnea to look out for is snoring. Other signs include being tired throughout the day, irritability, unexplained weight gain, morning headaches, falling asleep behind the wheel, diminished productivity and a generalized decrease in quality of life.
Untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression. Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that should not be ignored. Severe sleep apnea could be fatal, should you fail to restore breathing during a non breathing episode.
Absolutely! Since dentists spend a lot of time looking in your mouth, they have an excellent opportunity to screen for obstructive sleep apnea. Not only can dentists help diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, but they can also help with treatment. Dentists can fabricate customized mouthpieces for patients unable to use a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. These oral appliances reposition your tongue to open up your airways and are an alternative to a CPAP machine for those that qualify.
The first step is to identify if you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. A sleep test is performed and sent to a sleep physician to interpret the results. The sleep test can be administered at home or at a sleep lab. If it is determined that you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea then you need to use either a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine or an alternative oral appliance.
Those suffering from mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea are good candidates for using an oral appliance. Additionally, those suffering from severe sleep apnea but intolerant of a CPAP machine are also candidates for using an oral appliance. CPAP machines are bulky, loud and for many uncomfortable so it is not uncommon not to use them. Oral appliances are much more comfortable, resembling a nightguard, and designed to gently move your jaw forward to open up your airways at nighttimes. There are a variety of FDA-approved oral appliances on the market and we will work with you to determine which device best suits needs. To learn more about obstructive sleep apnea, contact us to schedule your complimentary consultation today.