Getting enough sleep is one of the very important things to stay healthy and happy. Sleeping well helps you look, feel and perform the best. But not every one of us is not lucky enough to enjoy a good sleep. As per a recent study, almost 1 billion people around the world suffer with a sleep problems known as – SLEEP APNEA.
What is sleep apnea?
It is a very common sleeping problem which occurs when our breathing is interrupted during sleep. Snoring is one of the common symptoms among the patients dealing with sleep apnea. However all snorers don’t have sleep apnea.
This condition occurs when the muscles present in the back of your throat relax during sleep. As a result the soft tissue will collapse, interrupting the airway. This eventually stops the breathing for few seconds and restarts again. Due to the interruptions in the breathing pauses, the oxygen levels in our body will eventually decrease. During the pauses in breathing, our brains signals us to wake up from the sleep, leading to disturbed and incomplete sleep during night.
Basically, there are two different types of sleep apnea – Obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
This type of sleep apnea is the most commonly reported one. This problem is a result of blocked airflow during sleep. This happens when the soft tissue at the back of throat collapses while you are in sleep. Health factors like obesity can cause or worsen this condition.
Central Sleep Apnea
This issue results from a problem with how the brain signals the breathing muscles. Unlike the OSA (obstructive sleep apnea), the airway is not blocked. Instead our brain fails to signal the muscles to breath. This type of sleep apnea occurs with conditions like heart failure, stroke, brain tumors and brain infections.
Is Treating Sleep Apnea Really Important?
Treating obstructive sleep apnea is extremely important to your health. If this condition is left untreated, it can lead to several other issues that include – sleepiness or fatigue throughout the following day, headaches and forgetting important things. Sleep apnea also possesses a threat to your health as they is a high chance of feeling drowsy while driving which can lead to accidents. Untreated sleep apnea raises the risk of getting serious health problems that include…
- High blood pressure
- Heart Stroke
- Heart disease
- Chronic acid reflux
- Brain infections
- Brain tumors
- And others.
How Does a Dentist Treat Sleep Apnea?
It can be a little strange to hear that you have to visit a dentist for a sleeping problem. But that’s true. Below, let’s look at the – “link between sleep apnea and dentist”.
As of now, we are already aware that – sleep apnea occurs when there are repeated breathing interruptions throughout the night. Usually, these pauses occur when the muscles present in the back of your throat are flaccid, the tongue is too large or too small, leading to obstructions.
The first and foremost sign of sleep apnea is “tooth grinding”. Dentist will take a look at your teeth to see if they are worn out due to grinding or clenching. Even a spike in cavities is a sign of grinding as the force will damage the teeth, leaving them vulnerable to bacteria. A small jaw or tongue with scalloped edges or redness in throat are also signs of sleep apnea.
After taking an observation at your teeth, a sleep study is recommend if the dentist thinks the patient has sleep apnea. This study helps in determining the severity of the symptoms. Below are different stages and its symptoms…
- Mild Stage – the person will experience 5 – 14 episodes of interruptions in breathing per hour.
- Moderate Stage – the person will experience 15 – 30 episodes of breathing interruptions per hour.
- Severe Stage – the person will experience more than 30 interruptions in breathing per hour.
Once the issue and stage is confirmed, dentists with the help of oral appliance therapy to treat sleep-disorientation, disordered breathing, obstructive sleep apnea and snoring.
Introduction to Sleep Apnea Therapy:
This therapy includes using dental devices that are capable of treating the symptoms in the following manner…
• Holding the airway open. This is achieved by lowering the jaw slightly forward.
• Holding the tongue in such a way that, it is prevented from falling backwards during sleep as it can cause airway obstruction.
• Doing both of these actions in parallel.
CPAP devices are the commonly used form of therapy for sleep apnea. These devices will blow a stream of pressurized air through a mask attached to it into the respiratory system.
For mild to moderate sleep apnea, a dental device is often the recommended therapy. Dental devices may also be recommended to be worn in conjunction a CPAP device to help lower high pressure needs.
Dental devices are also known as oral appliance therapy is the best solution for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A personally customized fitted oral dental device will be much effective in terms of improving sleep, restoring your alertness and revitalizing your health by preventing the airway from collapsing. This is achieved by supporting the jaw in forward position. This device is worn in the mouth during sleep.
The cost of sleep apnea dental appliance depends on the severity and duration for which the patient would wear the appliance.
How Do Dental Appliances Work?
For sleep apnea dental treatment, dentist use two major categories of dental devices – Mandibular advancement devices (MADs) and Tongue Retaining Mouthpieces
1. Mandibular advancement devices
These devices look very similar to sports mouthguard or orthodontic retainers. These devices perfectly fit our mouth by snapping over the lower and upper dental arches. They also have metal hinges connecting two pieces – one that fits over the lower teeth and another that fits over the upper teeth.
The working principle of mandibular advancement device is – pushing tongue and lower jaw slightly forward to prevent the throat muscles and pharynx from creating an interruption back into the airways. This helps to normalize the breathing while sleeping. Most of these devices are completely adjustable which allows the dentist to tune the position for maximum effectiveness.
2. Tongue retaining mouthpieces
The construction of these devices is much similar to MAD. But with a small difference – the compartment that fits around the tongue uses suction to keep it forward. This prevents the devices from restricting the airway. These devices are usually recommend to patients who cannot place their jaw adequately forward.
Positives of Using Oral Appliance Therapy for Sleep Apnea
- They are much more comfortable and tolerable to wear than CPAP masks.
- People using CPAP devices often complain of itching and dry noses as the air pressure dries out the sinuses. But oral devices don’t lead any of these issues.
- It is just an appliance without any more equipment or strings that become entangled during sleep.
- As there is no complicated equipment, it is much easier to travel with it.
- Cost effective than CPAP devices.
Negatives of Using Oral Appliance Therapy for Sleep Apnea
- Soreness, tension and jaw pain.
- Loosening of dental restorations or replacements that include bridges, crowns and others.
- Excessive salvation.
- Or sometimes dry mouth.
- Damage or permanent change of jaw position.
- Sore teeth or gums
- May cause issues with temporomandibular joint.
- Should be custom fitted. If not, you will not reduce sleep apnea.
Some Frequently Asked Questions on Sleep Apnea:
1. Who is qualified for a getting an oral dental appliance for sleep apnea?
A. Below are the cases which make them appropriate for getting these devices…
- Patients with mild – moderate sleep apnea. They are not recommended for severe sleep apnea.
- People who have snoring problem without sleep apnea.
- Patients who tried and failed to treat sleep apnea with CPAP therapy.
- People who have unsuccessful or rejected surgeries like adenoidectomy, tonsillectomy, craniofacial operations or tracheostomy.
2. Does sleep apnea affected children as well?
A. Yes, it occurs in young age too. It is often referred as Child OSA – in which child’s breathing stops and starts during sleep. It commonly observed in children between the ages of 2 – 6. However is can occur at any age.
3. How do I know if I have sleep apnea?
A. Chronic snoring is one of the most common signs of sleep apnea. Other symptoms of this condition include waking up with dry mouth, morning headaches, sore mouth and daytime drowsiness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, visit your dentists for an examination.
4. Is a night guard enough to treat sleep apnea?
A. Just a night guard may not be enough to fix the problem by itself. And moreover in some cases, it can make sleep apnea worse. It is better to visit a specialist to get a customized oral device for reducing the grinding, headache, jaw pain – which ultimately helps to reduce sleep apnea.
If you think you have sleep apnea, make sure to speak with your dentist for more information and possible evaluation.
5. What are the problems associated with sleep apnea devices?
A. One of the common complaints associated with oral dental devices is that – they are difficult to monitor. Most of the advanced CPAP machines are coming with tracking software which displays amount hours used, presence of persisting respiratory events and others. Due to their size, mouth devices are not able to have the same technology. However some new devices are being made with microchips to measure the hours of use.
Another problem associated with oral devices is that – they have a limited life expectancy. They don’t last forever. Most of the devices may last for 1 or 2 years maximum depending on the materials used. After this time period, they become weak and lose the efficiency.
6. How much do sleep apnea oral appliances cost?
A. Well, this depends on the materials used, location of dental hospital and several others. The average cost of oral dental appliance is around which may include follow ups and adjustments. For appropriate quotation, it is better to visit your nearest dental care provider. Some medical insurance companies may cover these devices so it is better to consult your insurance provider.
7. What are the negative health effects caused by sleep apnea?
A. With frequent interruptions, your sleep quality is reduced which can have a cumulative effect. If you don’t have adequate sleep daily then you can experience memory problems, mood disturbances and trouble concentrating. Sleepiness and drowsiness while driving can lead to accidents. This can also have an impact on your personal life and professional career.
8. Are there any health complications associated with sleep apnea?
A. Sleep apnea can lead to several health complications if left untreated. As you will have interruptions in your breathing, the oxygen level in the blood can drop eventually. This drop can show an impact on cardiovascular system which makes our heart work harder. People who are dealing sleep apnea are at a high risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and irregular heartbeats. Eventually, this can lead risk of heart diseases and sudden strokes.
9. How long does a sleep study take?
A. Though the time duration differs from one person to another. On average, the study may take between 9 – 10 hours. Once you visit a sleep analyst, you will have to spend some time talking about the symptoms and the technician will explain about the technology being used to analyze your sleep. Usually, it takes around 30 – 45 minutes to prepare you, to attach the monitors and equipment required for study. After that, you care requested to sleep for around 6 hours.
10. What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
A. One of the main symptoms of sleep apnea is snoring. However not every person who snore suffer from sleep apnea. A bed partner may observe that your breathing is periodically stopping for a small amount of time throughout the night. People with sleep apnea often experience daytime sleepiness and morning headaches.
11. Is it hard to sleep with an oral dental device?
A. These devices are just like oral night guards or sports mouth guards. Initially, you may experience a little discomfort. However, within sometime you will get used it and have a comfortable and undisturbed sleep.
12. Is sleep apnea temporary or permanent?
A. In most of the cases, sleep apnea is a chronic condition that doesn’t go away. The anatomy of our body remains same after the adolescence. If children get sleep apnea, it has be treated before their adolescence completes. For adults, it is a permanent issue. They are have to take care with oral dental devices or other options to prevent it from getting worse. With these treatment options, you may reduce the symptoms to a maximum extent.
13. What are the lifestyle changes I should make to lessen the symptoms of sleep apnea?
A. There are some changes you can make to decrease the symptoms that include – avoiding smoking, losing your weight, changing the head position while sleeping and others. However, these small changes show beneficial effect to those who have mild stage of sleep apnea. These changes may show position effects and reduce the symptoms but they don’t cure the disease completely.
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