Sleep Apnea Dentistry
What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs during sleep when the tissues of the airway close fully or partially to interfere with breathing. As a result, people with sleep apnea may experience snoring, shallow breaths, or breathing pauses throughout the night. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more per hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.
Most people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member or bed partner might be the first to notice signs of sleep apnea. In fact, research has found that 93% of women and 82% of men with moderate Sleep Apnea Syndrome have not been clinically diagnosed.
Sleep apnea is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of deep sleep and into a light sleep. As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.
Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone.
What are the Dangers of Not Treating Sleep Apnea?
The continuous oxygen deprivation caused by sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, palpitations or arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), stroke, obesity, bruxism, diabetes, and even sudden death. In addition, the sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea can increase the chances of work-related or automobile accidents.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy uses a machine to help a person who has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) breathe more easily during sleep. A CPAP machine uses a regulated air pressure, mechanically generated, to blow open or force air through your airway so it doesn’t collapse while you sleep.
While a CPAP machine can be effective in treating sleep apnea, there are many drawbacks. The CPAP is bulky, uncomfortable, noisy, and inconvenient. These machines are not easy to travel with, and many people do not like sleeping with a mask on their face. In addition, partners of CPAP users can also be disturbed by the noise of the machine.
Other side effects that may occur with CPAP therapy include:
- Nightmares and excessive dreaming during early use.
- Dry nose and sore throat.
- Nasal congestion, runny nose, and sneezing.
- Irritation of the eyes and the skin on the face.
- Abdominal bloating.
- Leaks around the mask because it doesn’t fit properly.
As a result, many people do not tolerate a CPAP breathing machine and prefer an oral appliance that can be custom made by their dentist.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy (OAT) physically opens the airway by repositioning and strengthening the structures that form the airway so that the individual can breathe in a normal manner.
Oral appliances are similar to orthodontic retainers and mouth guards but they are specifically designed to prevent the collapse of the airway during sleep by repositioning and stabilizing the mandible (lower jaw), the jaw muscles, the tongue, soft palate and/or uvula. The primary type of appliance used is a MAD or Mandibular Advancement Device that brings the lower jaw forward using the upper jaw as an anchor. This also brings the tongue forward and tightens the pharyngeal walls and the soft palate. The tongue-retaining device uses suction to bring the tongue and jaw forward. Many patients prefer Oral Appliance Therapy to CPAP Therapy because people like sleeping without the hose, mask, and compressor. Many patients who do not object to CPAP still prefer oral appliances for travel and feel they allow the return of intimacy to their bedrooms.