Sleep apnea is an oral condition that causes pauses in breathing (apneas) or shallow breathing when sleeping. 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
- Central sleep apnea
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome (occurs when someone has obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea)
The Causes Of Sleep Apnea
When you fall into a deep sleep, your throat tissues, soft palate and tongue relax. For those with sleep apnea, the throat tissues and soft palate over-relax, causing them to collapse into the back of your throat, blocking the airway.
If your airway gets blocked, you won't be able to get as much oxygen and as a result, your brain will force you to wake up slightly so you are forced to start breathing again. These episodes may happen hundreds of times a night, seriously disrupting your sleep.
Snoring & Sleep Apnea
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 a notorious 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 you've obtained a diagnosis from your dentist or a medical professional, your dentist can help you get a good night's sleep with various 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.
Sleep Apnea Devices & Oral Appliances That 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:
- Convenient for travel
- Easy to insert and remove
- Comfortable to wear
- Easy to care for
- Quiet and not disruptive to any bed partners (unlike some sleep apnea machines)
The Importance Of Treating 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 roll 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 wellbeing.