Sleep Apnea Therapy

Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by short interruptions in breathing during sleep. It may go unnoticed because it occurs while the person is asleep. One common symptom of sleep apnea is chronic snoring, although not all snorers have sleep apnea. It's more common in older individuals and those who are overweight, but younger, fit individuals can also be at risk. Studies suggest that as many as 1 in 4 Americans are at high risk for sleep apnea. If you experience symptoms like snoring or daytime drowsiness despite a full night's sleep, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional. Diagnosis is typically done through a sleep study.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a type of sleep apnea in which the airway becomes blocked during sleep. This usually occurs when the muscles in the throat relax excessively, leading to the temporary collapse of the tissues in the throat and tongue. During these moments, the brain responds by briefly awakening the individual to restore normal breathing. However, the cycle can continue hundreds of times during the night, resulting in fragmented and disrupted sleep, leading to daytime drowsiness and fatigue. Recent studies have linked sleep apnea to various serious side effects, including cognitive impairment, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, acid reflux, and more.

Procedure Overview

While the diagnosis and prescription for sleep apnea treatment are typically provided by a general physician, dentists can also play a role in managing the condition. The most common treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which involves the use of a machine that delivers a constant stream of air into the airways through a mask. While effective, CPAP therapy can be uncomfortable and may require some adjustment. Maintaining the equipment's cleanliness can also be a task.

Dentists offer an alternative solution through specialized dental appliances that resemble sports mouthguards. These devices keep the lower jaw in a position that prevents the tongue and upper throat muscles from collapsing into the airway during sleep. Unlike CPAP machines, these custom-fitted dental appliances are more comfortable and convenient for many patients. Additionally, they can also help prevent snoring, providing a better night's sleep for both the patient and their sleep partner.

If you've been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your dentist can collaborate with your healthcare provider to determine the best dental device that will help you maintain unobstructed breathing during sleep.