Most of us know someone who snores during sleep. You may also know someone who has commented that their partner has stopped breathing during sleep for seemingly long periods – long enough to be frightening. While snoring is often made the subject of jokes or teasing, it could be an indication of a serious health problem called Sleep Apnea. Sleep Apnea ranges from snoring that irritates your partner to life-threatening medical conditions.
WHAT CAUSES OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA?
OSA describes an effort to breath, but there is a physical obstruction of the airway causing Apnea. It may be caused by a collapse of the soft tissue at the back of the month and in the throat, sometimes related to the inability to properly breathe through your nose. If the jaw is too small to accommodate the tongue, the tongue has a tendency to fall back, further restricting your airway. As you inhale and exhale, the soft tissue of the throat vibrates and causes the sound of snoring. This tissue gets flabbier over time. In more severe cases, when apnea occurs- you literally stop breathing for 10 seconds or more. When breathing stops, Blood oxygen levels fall forcing the heart to work harder, causing blood pressure to rise. Some of the conditions associated with OSA include high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, gastric reflux, depression, and diabetes. It is important to note that you do not have to be overweight to have OSA.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF SLEEP APNEA?
The more common sayings and symptoms including: Snoring, waking up tired, dry-mouth and throat, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, weight gain, sleepiness, and irritability. It is also interesting to note that some studies have shown that sleep disordered breathing is common among children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
HOW IS SLEEP APNEA DIAGNOSED?
Talk to your dentist who can refer you to a qualified physician with specialized training in the field of sleep medicine.
WHAT ARE SOME OPTIONS FOR TREATING OSA?
In some cases, surgery to remove obstructions or to stiffen the flabby throat tissue may be recommended for treatment. For cases of severe sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is often the first choice for treatment. However although painless and effective, some patients and their partners do not tolerate sleeping with the CPAP machine very well. In those cases, and in many moderate cases, oral appliances are often a good choice.
WHAT IS THE DENTIST’S ROLE IN TREATMENT?
Properly trained dentist can make custom fitted oral appliances that are worn over the teeth at night to prevent the jaw from falling back during sleep, keeping the airway open. They can be very valuable in moderate cases of OSA or when the patient cannot tolerate CPAP. If you or someone you know exhibits any of the symptoms listed in this article please contact Dr. Escoto, a Neuromuscular Dentist Practicing Sleep Medicine. She is located at 2895 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33140 (SoBeDENTIST.com) Offering complimentary screenings for TMJ and Sleep Apnea.