People rarely consider dentists when seeking treatment for sleep disorders. However, if you’re one of the millions of adults who deal with obstructive sleep apnea (or OSA), a dental visit could offer a solution that helps you sleep soundly.
What is Sleep Apnea?
The most common sleep-related breathing disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when the airway becomes blocked during sleep. This triggers a survival reflex that wakes you just enough to restore breathing. These microarousals may not bring you to full consciousness, but they do disrupt your sleep, shattering your sleep quality. Untreated sleep apnea is linked to a lengthy list of serious health conditions, including cardiovascular problems, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, depression, and more. Daytime drowsiness can also raise the risk of injury, especially when driving.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Snoring is a hallmark of sleep disorders. However, there are several possible sleep apnea symptoms:
- Fatigue during the day
- Waking with a choking sensation
- Bruxism (grinding your teeth)
- Night sweats
- Brain fog or problems with memory or concentration
Sleep Apnea Causes
Several factors are thought to cause sleep apnea. These include genetics. Having a relative with sleep apnea increases your risk. Structural issues with the shape of the head, jaw, and throat may also set the stage for the condition. In addition, body weight can be a factor. Individuals who are overweight or obese have more tissue that can press down on the airway.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
Treating sleep apnea improves your quality of life and protects your overall health, so it’s important to find a sleep apnea treatment that works for you. There are a few possibilities:
- Continuous positive airway pressure: CPAP involves wearing a mask at night that provides constant pressurized air to keep the airways open while you sleep. Although there are numerous complaints about comfort, it’s still an effective treatment when it’s used correctly.
- Oral appliance therapy: This treatment uses an oral device similar to a retainer to position the jaw to keep the airway open. It’s comfortable and simple. Plus, numerous devices are available, so patients have ample opportunity to find the one that’s a good fit.
- Surgery: Surgical procedures are rarely recommended unless there is a clear physical reason for your sleep apnea. As the treatment of last resort, surgery usually is only for those with severe sleep apnea when other methods have failed.
Difference between Oral Appliance Therapy and CPAP
If you think you have sleep apnea, consult with a dentist to learn more about oral appliance therapy could be your path to a better night’s sleep. While these devices are not recommended for those with severe obstructive sleep apnea, studies indicate oral appliances are as effective as CPAP at treating mild and moderate sleep apnea. They’re also far easier to handle. There’s no claustrophobic mask, entangling hose, or bulky machine that requires electricity. Instead, you pop a simple oral appliance in your mouth at bedtime. You can even talk or drink while you wear it.
When you’re ready to learn more about oral appliances for sleep apnea, reach out to Wekiva Dental for a consultation. Drs. Offenback and Brambila are both qualified to treat OSA with numerous dental appliances. To make an appointment, contact Wekiva Dental today.