What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a condition where the soft tissues of your tongue and soft palate block your airway when you’re sleeping. When a person is sleeping, the muscles of the jaw relax, causing it to slide back. This actually squeezes the windpipe (trachea) closed and prevents a person from breathing. This can happen over and over during the night, causing your heart to work overtime to make up for the lack of oxygen being sent to your body. Also, the brain must keep working to tell the body to wake up and breath. Instead of the regenerative sleep that is required for the body to function properly and heal itself, the entire body system is working overtime just to breath. Obstructive Sleep Apnea can cause the following effects on a person’s health:
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Attack
- Irregular heart beats
- Headaches and migraines
- Complications of existing ADHD
- Exhaustion……falling asleep at work or even when driving
What are causes of sleep apnea?
- Obesity or excess weight
- An underbite, or a retrognathic bite.
- Anatomical features like a large tongue or flat shaped palate
Do I have Sleep Apnea?
What are some signs that I might have sleep apnea?
- Do you snore loudly?
- Are you tired during the day?
- Has anyone observed you stop breathing while sleeping?
- Do you have high blood pressure?
- Do you have a BMI greater than 35? BMI is weight divided by height in inches.
- Are you older than 50?
- Are you a male?
- Is your neck circumference greater than 15.75”?
If you answered yes to more than two of the above questions, you are considered high risk for sleep apnea. Call our office or speak with you physician about having a sleep study completed. The only way to find out if you do have sleep apnea is through a sleep study.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
Diagnosis of sleep apnea is done by a physician. Generally, the physician will order a sleep study and interpret the results. Today, many physicians prescribe take home sleep studies with compact monitors that a patient can wear in the comfort of their own home. Arriving at a specific diagnosis is critical to determine the best way to treat your sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
What happens if I have sleep apnea? Depending on the cause, your physician may have you seek nutrition counseling, or help you address the cause of your apnea. Treatment for sleep apnea always starts with a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for “continuous positive air pressure.” By wearing a mask that pushes a constant flow of air, the windpipe is forced to stay open, and the patient breaths while sleeping. Worn successfully, patients feel more refreshed, often lose weight, and sometimes even stop taking blood pressure medication. Even patients who have taken insulin for diabetes can come off meds after CPAP success and weight loss.
There is an alternative for patients who cannot tolerate wearing a CPAP mask. Your dentist can help determine if you a good candidate for a mandibular advancement device (MAD). A MAD is a custom made device that the user wears in their mouth. It fits over your teeth and holds your lower jaw (mandible) in a forward position. The advanced position of the mandible encourages airway opening and improves oxygenation of the blood. In mild and moderate cases of obstructive sleep apnea a MAD can drastically reduce the number of arousals (sleep apnea events) a patient experiences per night and significantly improve their symptoms. Talk to your dentist to determine if a sleep apnea dental appliance is right for you.