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What Causes Sleep Apnea

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More than 18 million Americans—as many as one in fifteen people—suffer from sleep apnea or sleep-disordered breathing. The condition causes individuals stop breathing momentarily in their sleep, with some people having 30 or more of these pauses each hour. Additionally, these pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes at a time.

Individuals with sleep apnea tend to develop poor sleep, a greater chance of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, and type two diabetes, among a variety of other health risks. Different medical treatments are used to both manage and reverse sleep apnea, but new technology allows dentists also to provide an efficient and comfortable treatment that gives patients better results than conventional treatment.

Sleep Apnea: Why It Happens

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea, which is caused by a collapsed or blocked airway. As a result, individuals may experience shallow breathing, or even breathing pauses. While the research found a greater tendency for sleep apnea in people who are overweight, the disease can affect anyone, from young children with enlarged tonsils to elderly individuals.

Sleep apnea can be difficult to diagnose. Individuals don’t usually know they have the disorder, and often come to the doctor because a family member has noted some of the most common warning signs, which can include gasping, choking, snoring, and silent breathing.

The breathing disorder can cause many different health problems, from hypertension and cardiac arrhythmias to the ability to focus or negative changes in various areas of the brain, including the brainstem and areas that influence mood, alertness, and cognition.

Common Treatment Options

One of the most widely prescribed treatments for sleep apnea is a CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure. CPAP is made up of three separate components: the motor, the hoses, and the mask. A CPAP motor is a compressor that pressurizes and sometimes humidifies room temperature air and pushes it through the hose into the CPAP mask, which is a placed over the individual’s nose. The therapy provides a non-stop, nightly flow of air.

CPAP is very effective, and has been shown to reverse the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, but only with regular, continued use. Many patients have found that as soon as they discontinue use of the machine, their symptoms return.

However, individuals who experience a mild to moderate case of sleep apnea often feel CPAP is a bit more extreme than their situation warrants, and forego symptom-relieving treatments. To treat patients suffering from any degree of obstructive sleep apnea, dentists formed the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. The group pioneers research and studies that led to the creation of dental devices and surgeries that treat sleep-disordered breathing.

Dental Devices for Sleep Apnea

One of the leading pieces to come from the AADSM is the oral appliance therapy, which has become a ground-breaking player in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. Individuals work with a dentist to fit a piece that looks like an athletic mouth guard. The appliance is used to keep the individual’s airway open by repositioning the tongue, lower jaw, and soft palate of the mouth.

It can make an immediate impact, and also has long-term effects. The device increases and improves the tongue’s muscle tone and trains to stabilize the tongue and lower jaw. An overwhelming majority of patients using oral appliance therapy—between 90 and 95 percent found they tolerate the device better than the CPAP machine. This leads to a higher compliance rate, as well.

The devices are customized to each patient and require a qualified dentist who has extensive experience in dental sleep medicine. The FDA approved more than 100 different oral appliances.

You’ll have an X-ray, examination, as well as an impression taken of your teeth. Once the device is ready, you’ll return to the dentist to have the appliance fitted to your teeth. With consistent use, a commitment to your treatment, and regular follow-up visits with a qualified dentist, you could see your symptoms vanish, and your quality of life improve.

Treating Sleep Apnea in Arizona

Dr. Ginger Price DDS has taken the lead as a specialist in dental sleep medicine. She’s studied under Dr. Ira Shapira, who has revolutionized the field. Dr. Shapira has spent the majority of his career using oral appliances to treat obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Ginger Price’s studies under Dr. Shapira led to her ability to give Phoenix-area residents high-quality treatment for their obstructive sleep apnea. She is continually and regularly investing in continuing education, putting her at the forefront of new technology and treatment options. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

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