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Sleep disorders can affect any age, both male and female. The most common is snoring. Many times, snoring affects sleep patterns and quality of rest. Habitual snoring not only affects the person snoring but others around them.

If you experience morning headaches, fatigue, or difficulty concentrating, you may have interrupted sleep patterns associated with sleep apnea which is a dental sleep disorder.

Gentle Dental believes that teamwork between you, your physician, and the dentist is essential to design and implement an effective individualized sleep apnea treatment option. We strive to provide a safe, trusted, pleasant experience for each of our patients by making every procedure as comfortable as possible.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea means “want of breath”. People snore because the air moving through the nasal passage is affected by a blockage, either through the nose or the mouth, causing the snoring noise. When the airway is blocked, it takes a more significant effort to draw air in and that makes it harder to breathe. Some people even stop breathing (apneic event) for a few seconds. This is called sleep apnea. While sleep apnea is treatable, it can be a serious condition.

There are three types of sleep apnea – Obstructive, Central, and Complex sleep apnea syndrome.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Apneic events or involuntary breathing pauses often take place as many as 20-60 times per hour with snoring and choking episodes.

While snoring is common with OSA, not all who snore have obstructive sleep apnea.

Diagnosing and treating OSA early is essential as it often is associated with an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

OSA is often managed using Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and/or dental appliances that help reposition the tongue and lower jaw and minimize the collapse of soft tissue at the back of the throat.

Because the signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas overlap with other sleeping disorders, it is often difficult to diagnose.

Common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apnea include:

  • Chronic snoring
  • Episodes where you stop breathing during sleep
  • Gasping or choking for air during sleep
  • Dry mouth during sleep and after waking up
  • Headaches after waking up
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability

Central Sleep Apnea & Complex Sleep Apnea

Less common than obstructive sleep apnea where the airway is blocked, central sleep apnea stops and starts your breathing repeatedly during sleep when the brain fails to send signals to the breathing muscles.

Complex sleep apnea syndrome or treatment-emergent central sleep apnea is when someone has both central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.

Signs and symptoms of central sleep apnea include:

  • Episodes of stopped breathing or abnormal breathing patterns during sleep
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath
  • Shortness of breath that's relieved by sitting up
  • Insomnia
  • Daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Chest pain at night
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood changes
  • Headaches upon waking up
  • Snoring
  • Lethargy or no tolerance for exercise

Any of these sleep disorders can affect you and your quality of life. If you think you may have one of these disorders, schedule an appointment today for your free consultation.

Sleep Apnea Risk, Treatment, and Benefits

Who is at Risk for Sleep Apnea

Anyone, regardless of age, can have sleep apnea. However, here are the top risk factors:

  • A person over 40
  • Overweight
  • A person with large tonsils, small jaw or a large tongue
  • A family history of sleep apnea

If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in many health problems, including but not limited to:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure, heart attack, irregular heartbeat
  • Diabetes
  • Depression

Sleep Apnea Treatment Options and Success Rate

A custom-fitted oral appliance or mouthpiece should be worn by most people who snore or have OSA.

The mouthpiece adjusts your bottom jaw forward to make more room at the back of the throat. This helps keep the airway open, causing less obstruction, minimizing snoring and sleep apnea.

Other treatment options

  • Adjust sleeping position
  • Continuous positive air pressure (CPAP)
  • Surgery. Removal of tonsils, soft palate typically, when other treatment options are unsuccessful.

There are many different types of sleep apnea oral appliances approved by the FDA. The success rate is quite high when using oral appliances. For severe OSA, CPAP is the most effective treatment option.

Benefits of Oral Appliances

Portability – Because they are small and lightweight and do not require electric or batteries, oral anti-snoring appliances are excellent for travel where CPAP machines can be bulky and take up space.

Comfort – For mild to moderate OSA, oral appliances are just as effective as CPAP therapy and more comfortable.

Low Maintenance - Mouthpieces are low-maintenance, with no replacement parts and no need for re-ordering supplies.

Quiet – Oral appliances are silent, unlike the CPAP.

Discreet – Since the appliance is worn at night, there is no stigma associated with a treatment or disease.

Affordable – While most insurance companies cover both the CPAP and dental oral appliances for sleep apnea, the oral appliance is often more affordable.

Long-term results – In most cases, the oral appliance treatment option has excellent long-term results, since most people continue to use them because of their benefits of comfort, convenience and affordability and because they are discreet.

Once you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea by a dentist or sleep medicine doctor, your treatment option will be specific to your needs.

Gentle Dental offers our patients a non-invasive approach to diagnosing and treating sleep apnea to give you back a good night’s sleep. We specialize in general dental care to specialized treatments with a commitment to a lifelong relationship with our patients.

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