Sleep Apnea

Man sleeping

What is Sleep Apnea?

People with sleep apnea can actually stop breathing for extended periods of time while asleep. This stoppage of breathing causes a drop in the amount of oxygen that is distributed to the brain and other parts of the body. Breathing can become obstructed because the musculature of the throat and tongue become relaxed during sleep and impede normal airflow.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

People who have sleep apnea and the partners of people who have sleep apnea often report:

  • Severe daytime drowsiness
  • Heavy, loud snoring
  • Stoppage of breathing during sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating while awake
  • Drowsiness while driving
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning

What kind of impact can sleep apnea have if left untreated?

Sleep Apnea is a serious medical condition that affects millions of people in America. It has been linked to many other systemic medical conditions including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. The relationship between these diseases is still being researched, but if left untreated, sleep apnea can negatively influence these other conditions.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

Sleep apnea is a medical condition that must be diagnosed by a physician. If you have the risk factors for sleep apnea, your physician or a sleep specialist will conduct a “sleep study.” A sleep study is typically done at a specialized facility that has equipment to evaluate numerous aspects of your sleep quality. Sleep studies require you to spend a night or two at the facility so that your sleep can be monitored. Afterwards, your physician will determine what the results of your sleep study mean for you and discuss the findings with you. Based on the severity of the sleep apnea, your physician will recommend the appropriate treatment.

What are the treatments for sleep apnea?

The most common treatment and the gold-standard treatment for sleep apnea is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP. A CPAP device works by using air pressure and airflow to force a collapsed airway to open. Patients that can tolerate a CPAP device see the greatest improvement in symptoms for all severities of sleep apnea.

There are surgical options that can be performed to treat sleep apnea. These options include altering the shape of the oro-nasal cavity and/or soft palate to prevent obstruction during sleep. Surgical options are typically reserved for extremely severe cases or as a last resort option when all other options have failed.

Oral appliances that can be made by a dentist are a relatively new and a very conservative option. Oral appliances open the airway by gently holding the musculature of the throat and tongue in a position that promotes airflow.

What are the advantages to Oral Appliance Therapy for Sleep Apnea?

Oral appliance therapy can be a more comfortable alternative to CPAP therapy because it uses a relatively small device that fits entirely inside the mouth and allows you to breathe on your own. It does not require a mask, nasal cannula, or any air pressure.

The oral appliance holds the lower jaw in a forward position and allows better airflow, which can eliminate snoring and stoppage of breathing during sleep.

What are the disadvantages and potential side effects of Oral Appliance Therapy?

Unfortunately, Oral Appliance Therapy cannot be 100% effective for everyone. Oral Appliance Therapy is less effective than CPAP in treating more severe forms of Sleep Apnea. People wanting Oral appliance therapy must be in good dental health for proper fabrication of the appliance. Potential side effects include tooth movement over time and jaw joint changes over time.

Please call our office at 281-440-1050 to schedule an appointment to see if Oral Appliance Therapy is appropriate for you.