Many people, about 18 million adults in the U.S., suffer from sleep apnea without even realizing it. If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, you may have sleep apnea:
- Restless sleep
- Waking up tired
- Trouble falling asleep
- Waking up with headaches.
If some of these symptoms sound familiar, talk to your dentist. They may be able to help. Read on to find out what sleep apnea is, how it is diagnosed and treated.
Can a general dentist help with sleep apnea?
The short answer is yes. A general dentist has the knowledge and skills necessary to treat mild cases of sleep apnea. They can perform the necessary evaluations and exams as well as offer the best treatment options. Dentists often work with oral appliances to effectively keep the airways open at night.
Sleep Apnea – the basics
Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder in which a person repeatedly stops breathing for a moment during sleep. Episodes of sleep apnea can occur every night or as often as every hour. Each episode lasts a few seconds.
Most of the time patients experience sleep apnea while sleeping on their backs. During sleep, the lower jaw falls backward and the throat muscles relax. For people with weaker muscles, this can lead to closing of the airway and breathing troubles.
The brain then realizes that breathing has stopped and sends a signal to the body to cough. Over long periods of time these low oxygen levels can lead to cell damage and other long-term effects.
Diagnosing sleep apnea
If you are not sure if you’re suffering from sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Ask yourself these questions to help you check for possible signs of the disorder:
- Do I snore loudly at night?
- Am I irritable?
- Do I feel lethargic, fatigued or depressed?
- Do I suffer from headaches?
If you’ve answered yes to all of these questions, it’s time to bring this up to your healthcare provider.
Treating sleep apnea
There are several sleep apnea treatments available. Below, we explain some of them.
One of the most commonly used methods of treating sleep apnea. CPAP is an abbreviation for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. A CPAP machine delivers air pressure through a mask. It helps keep the patients’ upper airway passages open.
While this method is very effective, many users complain that it’s uncomfortable. However, it is certainly better than the alternative of not getting enough of good, sound sleep.
Oral appliances are not only cheaper, but also easier to use than CPAP machines. They help open up the patients’ throat. They can even relieve mild obstruction and aid in preventing patients from snoring.
Probably the most popular oral appliance is called the mandibular advancement device, or MAD. It works by shifting the lower jaw forward and preventing it from falling back into the air passages. It’s connected with metal hinges and snaps over the lower and upper parts of the jaw.
You can ask your dentist at Kelly Road Dental about oral appliances that could be right for you.
ASV, or Adaptive Servo-Ventilation, is an airflow device that utilizes a computer to better understand your sleeping patterns. When a patient experiences breathing issues, the device uses pressure to normalize breathing.
In case other treatments failed to work, a surgery might be necessary. Please remember that this is the option of the last resort and doctors usually try to avoid it. The proposed procedures include jaw repositioning, tissue removal or shrinkage, implats and other options.
At the end of the day, your doctor along with you will decide on the best treatment option that fits your lifestyles and needs.
Reach Out Today!
If you would like to discuss sleep apnea with your dentist or need any other dental service, reach out to Kelly Road Dental today. We’d be happy to help you with your dentistry needs!