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Sleep Apnea: How Can a Dentist Help?

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sleep-apnea

If you or someone you know suffers from sleep apnea, chances are a dentist can help.

Most people think only a mask can help with symptoms of sleep apnea; however, you may not need to take such an extreme measure to find relief. Oral appliances constructed by a dentist have a high rate of success in treating obstructive sleep apnea.

 

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening disorder in which a person’s breathing stops for an extended period. With obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), this occurs when the airway becomes obstructed by the tongue, uvula—or a combination—during sleep. The disorder is characterized by episodes of apnea (absence of respiration) followed by bouts of loud mouth breathing or snoring. The body’s natural reaction to the cessation of breathing is to take large gasps of air. This frequently caused the sufferer to be startled awake, leading to fractured sleep. Sleep disturbances can result in excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and sometimes more serious signs of sleep deprivation. Other associated symptoms of OSA are loud snoring, depression, irritability, dry mouth and even marital problems.

 

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Those at highest risk for developing sleep apnea are:

• Men
• People over age 40
• Individuals who are overweight or obese
• Smokers
• Frequent users of alcohol

 

Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can be a life-threatening condition if left untreated. OSA is linked to serious conditions like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attacks and a higher incidence of sudden cardiac death.

 

Treatment Options for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

There are several ways to treat this disorder, once it has been officially diagnosed via a sleep study or thorough review of symptoms.

  1. Lifestyle Changes
  • Smoking cessation
  • Weight loss
  • Stopping or changing certain medications
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Changing sleeping positions (avoid back sleeping)
  1. CPAP Treatment

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is administered through a mask that is worn by the sufferer at night while sleeping. The mask directs a continuous flow of air into the nostrils which holds the airway open. There are a few drawbacks to this method which can lead to non-compliance. These include discomfort, embarrassment, issues related to intimacy, noise, and inconvenience.

  1. Oral Appliances

Some of the most innovative treatments for OSA have come in the form of minimally invasive, oral appliances. These dental devices open your airway by adjusting the position of the jaw. During sleep the appliance stabilizes the jaw and tongue so that obstruction doesn’t occur once muscles are relaxed or your position changes.

  1. Surgery

There are various surgeries that can help with OSA; however, these are reserved for the most severe cases and after other measures have been unsuccessful. Surgical options include:

• Removal of the uvula
• Removal of part of the tongue
• Nerve stimulator implantation
• Reconstruction of the nasal septum

*surgery is very invasive with unpredictable outcomes

Now, the Good News

Dental devices used for sleep apnea have a high rate of success for many of the reasons CPAP doesn’t. They are convenient, easy to use, custom fitted oral appliances like a sports mouth guard. Be careful though, there are many similar appearing devices for sale online that have little to no effect on OSA. According to the National Sleep Association, only FDA approved oral appliances should be used. These are custom made by a dentist who specializes in the treatment of sleep apnea.

Call a Specialist

Sleep apnea is a serious, even life-threatening sleep disorder that has a range of symptoms and consequences. If you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea or know someone who is, we encourage you to schedule an appointment today. Dr. Ginger Price is a specialist in dental sleep medicine. Dr. Price is on the forefront of the latest treatment options and offers the newest technology in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. Don’t risk another day, visit our website or call for more information.

 

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Phoenix, Arizona 85016
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