Dentistry and Sleep Apnea

SThe Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Although commonly overlooked, sleep apnea is a serious and potentially life-threatening sleep disorder. When you have obstructive sleep apnea, the tissues in your throat relax when you sleep, shutting off your airway. This occurrence starves your body and brain of the oxygen it needs to function properly, which is one of the reasons sleep apnea has been tied to various health conditions.

In fact, sleep apnea has been tied to obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, angina, hypothyroidism, and hypertension. Believe it or not, sleep apnea has even been linked to cancer and depression. In fact, one study showed that people who suffer from untreated sleep apnea were up to 65% more likely to develop cancer, and another study showed that 73% of sleep apnea sufferers also struggled with depression. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be targeted and treated early if you know what to look for.

Signs of Sleep Apnea

Here are just a few of the common symptoms of sleep apnea:

  • Loud or excessive snoring: Talk with your spouse or roommate to see if you snore loudly or for long periods of time. Oftentimes, people who suffer from sleep apnea can fall asleep and snore quickly and easily.
  • Waking up out of breath: Have you ever woken up gasping for air? Although some people write off these instances as nightmares, waking up out of breath is a sign that you have a serious sleep disorder.
  • Extreme fatigue in the morning and throughout the day: Do you have a hard time staying awake during your morning commute or afternoon meeting? Pay attention to how alert you feel during the day to gauge your quality of sleep.
  • Irritability: People who suffer from sleep apnea can also struggle from mood disorders, such as extreme irritability.
  • Attention problems: Sleep apnea can also make it hard to focus, which can make it hard to do well at work or to communicate effectively with loved ones.

If you suffer from any of these symptoms, talk with your family doctor right away. By taking part in a sleep study, technicians can carefully monitor your oxygen levels and sleep habits throughout the night.

How Your Dentist Can Help

If you have been diagnosed with mild to moderate sleep apnea, you might be able to wear a sleep apnea mouth guard instead of a large, noisy CPAP machine at night. Dental mouth guards work by propping the jaw open and keeping your neck muscles from relaxing. These oral appliances are easy to use, highly portable, and tolerated well by patients.

To create your custom sleep apnea appliance, the dentist will take molds of the inside of your mouth. These molds are then used to create a mouth guard that fits your teeth and gums perfectly. In addition to making you more comfortable, sleep apnea mouth guards also ward off the pressure sores and cankers that can occur when using cheaper, non-custom appliances.

Types of Sleep Apnea Dental Appliances

There are two basic types of sleep apnea dental appliances, mandibular advancement devices, also called MAD appliances, and tongue retaining devices. MAD appliances are great for patients who need to customize their appliance, since they contain metal hinges that can be adjusted. Tongue retaining devices are best for people who sleep on their backs, since the appliance keeps the tongue from falling back into the throat. However, both appliances are incredibly effective.

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, talk with your doctor and dentist today about whether or not oral appliance therapy can help.

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