The repeated sleep disruptions caused by sleep apnea can have a serious negative impact on your overall health. But your dentist may be able to help. Today our Vancouver dentists discuss dental appliances designed to help reduce sleep apnea symptoms.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing (apneas) or shallow breathing when an individual begins to fall into deep sleep. These apneas can occur due to a physical blockage of airflow, a lack of respiratory effort, or both.
There are three types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA - Most Common)
- Central sleep apnea (CSA)
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome (When an individual has both OSA and CSA)
What causes sleep apnea?
When you drift into deep sleep your soft palate, tongue, and other throat tissues begin to relax. For people suffering from sleep apnea, there is an over-relaxation of these tissues, causing them to collapse into the back of your throat, obstructing the airway.
When the airway is blocked, the flow of oxygen ceases, and as a result, your brain triggers and alarm and forces you to wake up slightly to consciously resume breathing. These episodes may happen hundreds of times a night, severely disrupting your sleep.
How are snoring and sleep apnea diagnosed?
Some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea include heavy snoring, headaches and migraines upon waking, restless sleep, excessive daytime fatigue, problems focusing, irritability, depression and TMJ symptoms.
Though loud snoring is the most well-known symptom and may indicate a potentially serious problem, not everyone who has sleep apnea will snore. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should visit a medical professional so you can receive a proper diagnosis.
Once your issue has been diagnosed by a medical professional, your dentist can help you get a better night’s rest with a number of treatment options. We will complete a full examination of your teeth, tongue, airway and jaw, and potentially take an x-ray of your airway, to determine the right appliance for your needs.
What sleep apnea devices or oral appliances can help?
Dental appliances can help by positioning your lower jaw further forward, effectively pulling your tongue away from the throat and the soft palate to open your airway. These dental appliances are:
- Portable and easy to take along when you travel
- Easy to clean and care for
- Comfortable to wear after a very brief adjustment period
- Easy to insert and remove with practice
- Helps to prevent snoring and disruption to sleep partners
- Custom fitted by your dentist in order to provide maximum benefit
Why is it important to treat sleep apnea?
If you have sleep apnea, you will be unable to fall into a deep, restorative sleep that recharges your brain and body. This can play a role in many medical disorders and diseases, and reduce your life’s quality and longevity.
Complications can include a wide range of conditions from metabolic syndrome and high blood sugar, which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. You may also experience heart problems, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes and resistance to insulin. Because of your daytime fatigue, you may be at an increased risk of workplace or motor vehicle accidents.
By treating sleep apnea, your dentist can help you improve and protect your overall health and well-being.