Did you know that many sleep problems, such as snoring and insomnia, are signs of a sleep disorder called sleep apnea? Untreated sleep apnea can wreak havoc on your quality of life, causing daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and serious, long-term health problems.
Unfortunately, many people have trouble falling asleep due to sleep apnea — an estimated 22 million Americans, according to the Sleep Apnea Association of America. While you may be inclined to go to your primary care doctor to get to the bottom of your sleep problems, there is another provider you may be surprised to learn that can solve your sleep problems. Problems affecting sleep – your dentist!
Dental hypnotics is a field of dentistry that uses oral device therapy to treat common sleep disordered breathing conditions, including sleep apnea. The following guide will help you better understand these common sleep-related problems and how your dentist can help you get a good night’s sleep once and for all.
What is obstructive sleep apnea?
One of the most common forms of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This condition occurs when the muscles responsible for supporting your throat, tongue, and soft palate temporarily relax during sleep. This restricts or completely closes your airway and stops breathing, which can last from a few seconds to a few minutes and can happen 30 or more times per hour.
Many people with OSA snore loudly, while others wake up gasping. Some people with sleep apnea don’t know it’s happening, and it’s often their roommate or sleeping roommate that gets their attention.
Do I have sleep apnea?
You can get sleep apnea at any age, although the risk tends to increase as you get older. You may also be at higher risk for OSA if you:
- Have high blood pressure
- Regularly drinking alcohol or using sedatives
- Having certain physical features, like large tonsils or nasal polyps
- Has a large neck circumference
Because sleep apnea causes extreme fatigue during the day, a person with OSA may also be at increased risk for poor work or school performance and motor vehicle accidents.
Sleep apnea can be difficult to diagnose on its own, and it’s easy to blame fatigue, headaches, irritability, or some other underlying cause. That’s why it’s so important to seek professional care if you’re constantly feeling fatigued with no clear explanation.
Other common warning signs of sleep apnea include one or more of the following:
- Frequent snoring
- Episodes where you stop breathing while sleeping, will be reported by a roommate
- Panting while sleeping
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headache
- TMJ symptoms, including teeth grinding
- Difficulty sleeping
- Excessive fatigue during the day for no apparent reason
- Difficulty paying attention or concentrating when awake
- Mood changes, such as irritability and depression
Treating Sleep Apnea – A Dentist Can Help!
If you or your sleeping partner suspect that sleep apnea is the cause of your chronic sleepiness, it is important that you seek professional treatment sooner rather than later. Usually, the standard treatment is CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). This machine forces air through the mouth and nose to keep soft tissues from collapsing. Unfortunately, not all patients tolerate CPAP well, and the machine can be noisy, cumbersome, and uncomfortable — all of which can negatively impact your sleep as well as those of those sleeping nearby.
Thanks to sleep dentistry, oral appliance therapy is available as a less invasive alternative to the treatment of sleep apnea. One sleep expert and a dentist with dental expertise work together to determine if this type of treatment is best for the patient. If a patient is considered a good candidate, a highly trained sleep dentist can work closely with the individual to tailor a removable dental appliance.
An oral appliance designed for sleep apnea fits like a mouthguard or sports mouthguard and is specifically shaped to point the jaw forward during sleep. This helps to position the soft tissues in the airways (tongue, soft palate, tonsils and back of the mouth) so that the flow of oxygen throughout the body is unrestricted. With an unobstructed airway, a person with sleep apnea can finally experience comfortable, uninterrupted sleep and improved energy during the day.
There are many benefits to using an oral appliance to treat sleep apnea through CPAP. Oral device therapy can:
- Improve symptoms of sleep apnea, including daytime fatigue, irritability, and problems with concentration
- Reduce or eliminate loud, frequent snoring
- Offers another option for patients who cannot tolerate CPAP
- Travel easier, work without electricity, and be quieter
If you struggle with excessive daytime fatigue, even after a full night of sleep, you may have obstructive sleep apnea. Since day-to-day activity without adequate rest can lead to more serious and long-term health problems, it’s important that you find the root cause of your sleep problems. myself as soon as possible. With the help of a sleep specialist and a dentist with expertise in sleep, you can determine if you have sleep apnea and learn more about treatment options, including: including dental appliance therapy.