Snoring is a major problem for many adults in this country. There are many effects of snoring, but the inability to breathe properly is the most serious. For some adults, snoring causes them to wake during the night, which can lead to fatigue during the day.
One possible cause of snoring is obstructive sleep apnea. This condition affects almost 10 percent of women and around 25 percent of men. Adults aren’t the only ones who can suffer from this condition. Babies and children can also have obstructive sleep apnea.
Why is Obstructive Sleep Apnea a Major Issue?
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway. This usually occurs when the soft tissue in the throat collapses. This is much different than central sleep apnea, which occurs because of changes in the central nervous system.
Some people are more prone to obstructive sleep apnea than others. These include people who are overweight, have a large neck or suffer from a small upper airway. People who have an overbite, those who have enlarged tonsils, and those who have a nasal obstruction may have a small upper airway.
The problem with obstructive sleep apnea is that it can lead to major health problems. These include:
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart attacks
- Heart arrhythmias
- Enlargement of heart muscle tissue
There’s also the possibility of this condition making it difficult to live life normally because of fatigue. Some people who have obstructive sleep apnea are at an increased risk of work-related and automobile accidents. Lax work or academic performance might also occur.
What are the Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea causes symptoms that are noticeable while you’re sleeping, but there are also some that are present while you’re awake. In some cases, you won’t notice these but your partner will. These signs include:
- Snoring, often loudly
- Trouble concentrating
- Problems with memory
- Mood swings, including irritability
- Sore throat or dry mouth when waking
- Night sweats
- Fatigue during the day
- Sexual dysfunction
Sleep apnea interrupts the breathing cycle that occurs during sleep. These disruptions can last a few seconds or longer than a minute. They may occur hundreds of times during the night. The longer the episodes and the more frequent the episodes, the more issues they can cause.
How Can a Dentist Help People Who Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
People who have obstructive sleep apnea sometimes need to have continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, when they sleep. This requires them to wear a mask that’s connected to a breathing machine. Typically, people who have a severe case of obstructive sleep apnea will require this.
For those who have a minor to moderate case of obstructive sleep apnea, a dental appliance might help to prevent the soft tissue from blocking the airway by adjusting the lower jaw. Oral appliance therapy uses a device that looks similar to a mouth guard.
There are three categories of devices that may help with obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Kevin F. Postol will determine which of these three would benefit you.
- Mouth guard: These provide a minor adjustment to the lower jaw by pulling it forward some.
- Mandibular advancement devices: These snap over the teeth to pull the lower jaw forward. They’re made of hard plastic that’s molded specifically for your tooth alignment. They also have screws and hinges that are adjusted to get the position of you lower jaw set correctly.
- Tongue-retaining devices: These devices help to prevent your tongue from falling back over the throat. They are usually uncomfortable and can cause dry mouth.
Once you’re given a dental appliance to help control your obstructive sleep apnea, you’ll need to wear it on a consistent basis. It can be challenging to get used to sleeping with it in, but the symptoms you’re experiencing will be reduced if it’s the correct one for you. In some cases, you’ll have to try more than one of these before you find the one that provides the most relief from obstructive sleep apnea.
How Does a Dentist Determine What Can Help Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Dentists work closely with sleep specialists to determine the best way to help a person who has sleep apnea. Determining the best course of treatment usually starts with having a polysomnography test, which is an in-lab sleep study, or a home sleep apnea test. Both of these tests help to determine what happens to your airway while you sleep.
Dr. Postol can also use an i-CAT imaging scan to find out about your tooth and jaw positioning. This enables him to find ways to reduce the obstructions of your airway while you sleep.
What are the Risks of Dental Appliances to Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
While using a dental appliance to treat obstructive sleep apnea is usually a successful treatment, there are some risks that are present when using these devices.
- Loose teeth
- Jaw pain
- Dry mouth
- Bite changes
- Drooling excessively
These risks are usually outweighed by the benefits of wearing the device. Most adults would rather deal with those instead of having to wear a CPAP mask while they sleep. But, it’s important to remember that CPAP might be necessary if the obstructive sleep apnea isn’t controlled by the dental appliance.
Contact Kevin F. Postol, DDS to Treat Your Snoring
Getting treatment started for obstructive sleep apnea can help you to enjoy a more restful night’s sleep. It can also help to improve your overall health and make it easier for your partner to get a good night’s sleep. Contact Dr. Kevin F. Postol to schedule an appointment to learn how our team can help you address the snoring that’s become a major problem in your life. Our team has more than 25 years of combined experience in treating sleep apnea and snoring.