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sleep_apnea

Sleep Apnea

What is sleep apnea?

Snoring is a common symptom, but sleep apnea is much more serious than a simple snore. It is a sleep disorder in which breathing periodically stops during the night, forcing you to come out of deep sleep to breathe. It can have a serious impact on your health, and has been linked to many conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. You may have sleep apnea if you experience some of the following:

  • Loud, recurring snoring
  • Daytime drowsiness or fatigue, or falling asleep during the day when activity is low
  • Choking, gasping for air, or stopped breathing during sleep
  • Neck size greater than 17 inches for a man, or 16 inches for a woman
  • Unexplained weight gain/trouble losing weight
  • High blood pressure
  • Heightened anxiety or depression
  • Acid reflux
  • History of stroke or heart attack
  • Family history of sleep apnea

In dentistry, we suspect someone has sleep apnea when we see severe wear on the front teeth, and insignificant wear on the back teeth. This usually means that the person is moving their jaw forward at night to try to open the airway, and then clenching their teeth together as their body strains for air.

There are two general classifications of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is caused by your brain sending incorrect signals to your muscles in your sleep, and it usually requires the help of a sleep specialist. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by blockage of the airway. It is the more common form of sleep apnea, and it can often be successfully treated in a dentist’s office.

Treatment

People with severe sleep apnea usually need some form of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device, a mask which provides a constant flow of air to help them breathe. People with milder cases often find CPAP too cumbersome, and if they try oral appliance therapy, they are more likely to use it long-term than CPAP.

Oral appliances for sleep apnea come in a wide variety of designs, shapes, and sizes. They are usually custom-made. Most of them look like a double retainer, and are designed to shift the lower jaw forward during sleep.

If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, and would like to know more about your options, set up a consultation to discuss how we can help you.


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