WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA?
WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF SLEEP APNEA?
Repeated cycles of decreased oxygenation lead to very serious cardiovascular, pulmonary, gastroenterological, neurological, endocrinological, musculoskeletal, otolaryngological, urological, and psychological problems. The list is long and continues to grow with medical research.
People who insist that they “just” snore may be fooling themselves, as many snorers also have sleep apnea. Snoring is a symptom of an obstructed airway. Collapsed tissues in the back of the throat can vibrate as air passes through. Common causes are excess weight gain including fat deposits around the neck, tongue, and throat, sleeping position, alcohol consumption, smoking, large tonsils and other factors. Snoring can also be a sign of sleep disordered breathing, chief of which is obstructive sleep apnea.
TREATMENT FOR SLEEP APNEA
There are several treatment options available. Treatment may consist of using a dental oral appliance worn at night in order to maintain an open airway while you sleep. A nasal CPAP machine can also be prescribed, which delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask. There are also surgical procedures available to help with sleep apnea. Most medical insurances help cover treatment.
ORAL SLEEP APPLIANCES
Oral appliance therapy (OAT) is effective for most patients with a diagnosis of mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Multiple designs for these appliances exist and they all attempt to do the same thing - keep the airway open while patients sleep. The most common appliance is a mandibular repositioning device (MRD), that moves the jaw into a forward position, lifting the palate and increasing space located behind the tongue (see examples below). Because each patient is unique, we will take time to explain the differences in appliances and determine which one best suits you.
Warning: Please do not fall victim to the commercials you may see on TV or online promoting “snoring appliances”. There is a critical difference between a custom-made, adjustable appliance that is fabricated by an experienced dentist verses a bulky one-size-fits-all appliance found on TV or online.
People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels. When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the tongue is sucked against the back of the throat, which blocks the upper airway. This can happen hundreds of times per night and yet the person may not remember it in the morning. In extreme cases, the person will remember violently waking up and choking or gasping for air. OSA is a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment.