Sleep apnea is anything but simple. It is a condition that causes repeated sleep interruptions throughout the night. It causes pauses in breathing that can last from a few seconds to minutes and can occur 30 or more times in an hour. In certain instances, this could be dangerous. The symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring and sleeplessness. If you do suffer from sleep apnea, your oral health could be to blame and you should consult your dentist for an initial check-up.
About 18 million Americans have sleep apnea. This is based on data from the National Sleep Foundation. Sleep apnea causes pauses in breathing. These pauses can occur because the tongue is too large, the muscles in the back of the throat are flabby, or the jaw is too small. All of these can cause obstruction of the airway. This causes the initial symptoms of sleep apnea, which is bruxism, or grinding of the teeth. Bruxism also wears down the teeth, causing a spike in cavities.
Apart from bruxism, other signs of sleep apnea could include a small jaw, redness in the throat caused by continual snoring, and a tongue with scalloped edges. If you suffer from sleep apnea, you will gasp for breath which will cause you to wake up repeatedly. This will diminish your sleep quality and cause fatigue. Sleep apnea can also increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
How your dentist can help in treating sleep apnea
If your dentist suspects sleep apnea, she will often suggest a sleep study to conclusively diagnose the condition. After a diagnosis, your dentist can schedule an appointment to help you learn about your treatment options. The gold standard for the treatment of sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. However, if you cannot tolerate a CPAP machine, your dentist may recommend wearing oral appliances, which can help patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea.
These oral appliances are called mandibular advancement devices, also called dental sleep devices. These devices look like mouthguards and push the lower jaw forward. Due to this, the muscles that collapse during sleep apnea tighten, so that they cannot fall down. Over time, these devices can make your airway stronger and more rigid, thereby reducing or eliminating sleep apnea. Many of these appliances are adjustable, thereby allowing you to alter their position when they are in place.
If you suffer from sleep apnea, your dentist will carry out a detailed assessment of your mouth, teeth, and temporomandibular joints. She will do this to determine if you are a good candidate for a mandibular advancement device. If you are, your dentist will create a model of your teeth and craft an oral appliance that will custom fit your mouth. It is vital that the appliance fits perfectly, as an improperly fitted device can cause jaw damage. Patients with sleep apnea wear these devices when asleep to prevent their symptoms.
Another device is the tongue-retaining device. This is less common but can be suitable for a wider range of mouths. This appliance holds your tongue in a forward position. This device also keeps the airway open, as the tongue is attached to the lower jaw. Your dentist will work closely with you to determine if your oral appliances are working in the best way possible. They will also regularly monitor your appliances to ensure that you get the best results.
If you think you suffer from sleep apnea, it is important that you ask your dentist the following three questions:
- Is a nightguard enough?
An over-the-counter night guard may not be enough and may even make the problem worse. If you are wearing your night guard through the night, it may be time to consult your dentist. A custom-made nightguard can reduce grinding, along with the cavities, headaches, and jaw pain that it causes. This kind of night guard can also help with sleep apnea.
- Is my periodontal disease a sign of a larger problem?
If you suffer from a lot of tooth decay, it could be caused by grinding and sleep apnea.
- How do I know if I really do have sleep apnea?
If you have chronic snoring, this could be a sign of sleep apnea. Also, other symptoms include daytime drowsiness, waking up with a dry mouth, a sore throat, and morning headaches. If you have any of these symptoms, you should bring them up with your dentist.
Risks and Benefits of Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy comes with certain risks and benefits. Some of the risks are:
- Bite changes
- Pain in the teeth, jaw, and temporomandibular joint
- Loose teeth
- Necessity for dental work replacement
- Excessive drooling
- Dryness in the mouth
Some of the benefits of oral appliance therapy are:
- An improvement in the symptoms of sleep apnea, including daytime sleepiness, moodiness, snoring, and concentration issues
- Offers another option for patients who cannot tolerate a CPAP machine
- Is portable and easier to take along when travelling
- It works without electricity
- It is quiet
After consulting your dentist and before opting for oral appliance therapy, you should ask your dentist any and all questions that you want to. These may include questions regarding the cost of this therapy, how long the device will last, what changes will take place in your lifestyle due to this device, how many visits it will require, and anything else that you may want to ask.
It is vital that you choose the right dentist for treating your sleep apnea. You will find the right dentist at Harbour Pointe Oral Maxillofacial & Advanced Implant Surgery. We treat all our patients with the utmost care and work closely with them to design and place any oral appliances that they may need. We do not treat them as just another case, but view them holistically and treat them as individuals with their own unique conditions.
So, if you suffer from sleep apnea and need to consult your dentist, choose Harbour Pointe and rest easy, knowing that you are in very good hands!
For more information about oral appliances for sleep apnea and other dental procedures and solutions, consult Dr. Kathleen Isdith at 425-353-1009 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to our website https://www.harbourpointeoralsurgery.net for more information.