Your quality of sleep affects your mood, thoughts, and bodily functions. Healthy sleep on a regular basis will improve all aspects of your health. However, sleep disorders can hinder your health and leave you feeling weak, irritable, and fatigued every day. Obstructive sleep apnea affects tens of millions of Americans. Learning about the signs and symptoms of this disorder can help you identify your condition and seek treatment.
What Does Obstructive Sleep Apnea Look Like?
Roughly 25 million adults in the U.S. suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This chronic disorder temporarily halts breathing during the restful hours in intervals ranging from a couple of seconds to several minutes.
Why does this happen to so many people? The key lies in soft muscle tissue. Muscle relaxation is a normal part of sleep, but for people with sleep apnea, this causes a blockage in the airway. Breathing then becomes irregular, oxygen intake drops, and the body is forced to wake in order to acquire more air. These breaks in sleep prevent the body from entering the restful phases of sleep, resulting in sleepiness throughout the day
Signs of obstructive sleep apnea include chronic snoring, panting or gasping sounds, or coughing during sleep. Men are generally more prone to OSA than women, but OSA often surfaces during menopause. Risk factors for developing OSA include obesity, jaw problems, a large or thick neck, high blood pressure, enlarged tonsils, nasal congestion, diabetes, smoking, alcohol use, and a family history of OSA.
The Importance of Treatment
Many people who have obstructive sleep apnea have lived with the condition for so long that they fail to notice their symptoms. Chronic fatigue, problems focusing, and memory loss can become life-threatening hazards when driving, operating machinery, or when performing household tasks such as cooking. Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can greatly increase your risk of developing health complications such as:
- Cardiovascular problems including heart disease, arrythmia, heart attack, and stroke
- High blood pressure
- Complications with medications and surgery
- Vision problems
- Diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea
A qualified dentist can evaluate your symptoms and determine if you have obstructive sleep apnea. If the diagnosis is positive, know that there are many sleep apnea treatment options available to you. One of the most effective and professionally endorsed treatments is oral appliance therapy.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment Options?
Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea, your overall health, and medical history, your dentist may recommend oral appliance therapy, CPAP therapy, or oral surgery.
Studies show that oral appliance therapy is a successful sleep apnea treatment. A device similar to a retainer or mouth guard is fitted comfortably inside your mouth during sleep to keep your jaw upright and your airway clear. The most common alternative to oral appliance therapy is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy, which uses a machine that supplies constant air pressure through a tube or hose connected to a face mask. Most patients prefer the comfort, quiet, and portability of oral appliances to the more invasive CPAP mask and machine. If you have structural issues with your jaw or neck causing your obstructive sleep apnea, your dentist may recommend surgical corrections.
It’s important to choose a dentist qualified in oral appliance therapy. Qualifications may include a board certification, professional designation in dental sleep medicine, or recent or continuing education in dental sleep medicine. The FDA has approved many different oral appliances for use in treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. Your dentist will find the appliance that best fits your needs. PPO medical plans may cover most of the cost of oral appliance therapy. Our office will handle the billing for you.
Talk to Your Dentist Today
Ask us about an assessment and learn about your sleep apnea treatment options. Ask about oral appliance therapy and other treatment options that can help you regain the restful, uninterrupted sleep you deserve.
Concerned about sleep apnea and looking for treatment? Take our simple online sleep assessment.