At first, the signs of sleep apnea can be easy to dismiss. Some people simply snore loudly, have trouble staying asleep or have headaches in the morning. However, these symptoms could point to a much bigger issue that can be fatal if left untreated.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes patients to stop breathing while they’re asleep. They often wake up gasping for air, then fall back into a restless sleep. When a patient has obstructive sleep apnea, their throat muscles relax while they sleep, closing their airways. Other patients have central sleep apnea, which happens when their brain doesn’t tell their breathing muscles to keep working.
What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
Insomnia or restless sleeping might not be an isolated issue. Instead, it could be a sign of sleep apnea. If you have trouble sleeping, look out for these common symptoms:
- Loud snoring
- Waking up gasping for air
- Trouble concentrating or staying awake during the day
- Morning headaches
- Disturbed sleep
- Sudden episodes where you stop breathing
- Dry mouth
Many people don’t know that they have sleep apnea because they can’t hear themselves snoring. If you sleep with another person, they might notice that you snore loudly or suddenly stop breathing during the night. Don’t assume that you’re just a restless sleeper–take these concerns to your dentist before complications arise.
In children, sleep apnea symptoms include bed wetting, sweating, mouth breathing, snoring and choking or coughing while asleep. During the day, the child might act out in frustration. Parents assume that they’re misbehaving, but they’re actually tired and stressed after a night of restless sleep.
What is a Sleep Apnea Dentist?
A sleep apnea dentist works specifically in the sleep apnea field to provide patients with the best possible care. Patients can visit the clinic on their own or get a referral from a doctor. Once they schedule a consultation, the dentist talks about their symptoms, evaluates the patient’s mouth and discusses a treatment plan.
Sleep apnea dentists offer custom-made appliances that fit directly over the patient’s teeth. They make impressions of the patient’s teeth, then sends them to a lab that crafts the appliances. If necessary, dentists recommend other treatments like surgeries and CPAP machines. They stay in touch with the patient throughout the process to answer questions and adjust their appliances.
How Do Dentists Treat Sleep Apnea?
In some cases, dentists recommend a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine that keeps your airway open while you asleep. When you sleep, you’ll wear a face mask connected to the CPAP machine. The machine feeds air pressure through the mask that keeps your airway tissues from collapsing. You’ll enjoy reduced snoring and a better quality of sleep without disturbances.
If you have mild sleep apnea, we prefer to prescribe oral appliances that open your airway while you sleep. Appliances are smaller and quieter, making them an efficient treatment for people who don’t need a full CPAP machine. The appliances hold your jaw open at night to clear your airways without pain or discomfort.
Many patients prefer appliances because they’re much more portable. Patients can easily take trips, stay in hotels or crash at friends’ houses without hauling their CPAP machine around. They’re also more comfortable and less invasive. At night, the patient simply inserts the appliance, then takes it out when they wake up the next morning.
Dr. Postol’s office makes customized appliances for qualifying sleep apnea patients. We offer five different appliances that suit various needs. When we start treatment, we’ll evaluate parts of your mouth like the jaw, tongue and soft palate, then decide which appliance offers the best treatment.
Which Appliances Treat Sleep Apnea?
Studies have shown that oral appliances are just as effective as CPAP machines. You might be a candidate for appliances if you have mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, you’re not comfortable with CPAP therapy or you can’t undergo surgery. Some patients use an appliance along with their CPAP machine for comprehensive treatment.
The EMA is thinner than other appliances, making it ideal for people who aren’t comfortable holding large appliances in their mouths. EMA appliances feature plastic trays with adjustable straps on each side. While this appliance is less durable than its counterparts, the straps offer different lengths that gradually adjust the patient’s jaw.
Many patients prefer the TAP® 3 because they can make their own adjustments. This appliance uses a hook and socket to connect your upper and lower jaw while you sleep. To make adjustments, simply use the key to gradually shift the position, then close your mouth once you’re satisfied.
While the HERBST OA’s components look intimidating, this appliance is safe and comfortable for patients. The design allows greater flexibility so patients can move their jaw during the night. Each appliance comes with a simple adjustment mechanism and uses rubber bands to keep the patient’s mouth closed, preventing a sudden episode.
What Happens When You Start Wearing Appliances?
When you first start using oral appliances, you might experience minor discomfort like tension, sore gums, dry mouth or salivating. Typically, these symptoms disappear as your mouth adjusts to the appliance. If the discomfort persists, schedule an appointment so we can make adjustments. Talk to us immediately if you experience jaw pain, tooth movement or damage to existing structures like crowns and bridges.
As you adjust to the appliance, you might notice reduced headaches, more alertness in the morning and restful sleep that gives you energy for the day ahead. Your partner may remark that you’re snoring less and don’t wake up in the middle of the night, gasping for air. You’ll enjoy a better quality of life without surgeries or CPAP machines.
Contact Our Office Today
If you suspect that you’re suffering from sleep apnea, schedule an appointment with Dr. Postol’s office. We may start with a Home Sleep Apnea Test (HSAT) or polysomnography test (PSG) to provide an accurate diagnosis. Otherwise, we’ll talk about treatment options that suit your condition’s severity.