Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder where a person’s breathing is repeatedly interrupted during the course of the night. If you doubt you are suffering from sleep apnea, consult your doctor, and he will make an evaluation based on your current signs, symptoms, and sleep history.
After the diagnosis is made, you will be referred to a sleep disorder center, where a sleep specialist will help you determine your need for further evaluation. Visiting a cardiologist and neurologist is necessary as well. Also, your doctor may refer you to ear, nose, and throat doctors to rule out any blockage in these areas.
Evaluation And Diagnosis
An evaluation usually involves overnight monitoring of your breathing and other body functions during sleep. Typically it is done at the sleeping center, but at-home sleep testing is also an option. Tests to detect sleep apnea include:
- Nocturnal polysomnography – a patient is hooked up to equipment that monitors heart, lung, and brain activity, breathing patterns, movements of arms and legs, and blood oxygen levels during the sleep
- Home sleep tests – A doctor will provide a patient with simplified tests that can be used at the patient’s home to measure heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow, and breathing patterns. If the results are abnormal, doctors might be able to prescribe a therapy without further testing, but they recommend further testing in most cases.
There are three main types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea – Most common form of sleep apnea; occurs when the throat muscles intermittently relax and block the airway during sleep
- Central Sleep Apnea – Occurs when a brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing
- Complex (Mixed) Sleep Apnea Syndrome – Occurs when a patient has both obstructive and central sleep apnea
The signs and symptoms tend to overlap, which is why it is difficult to determine which type of sleeping apnea you have, but the most common symptoms are loud snoring, insomnia, excessive daytime sleeping, gasping for air during sleep, dry mouth after awakening, morning headache, and difficulty concentrating.
For milder cases of sleep apnea, major changes such as losing weight, stopping drinking alcohol, sleeping on the side, or quitting smoking will do the job, but in more severe cases, doctors will prescribe the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
This machine delivers air pressure through a mask during sleep, which allows upper airway passages to remain open and prevent apnea and snoring. If this type of machine doesn’t help, other types of units supply bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP). These provide more pressure when inhaling and less pressure when exhaling.
Another solution is to wear dental appliances that are designed to keep your throat open. The use of sleep appliances can treat many sleeping disorders. They are worn as braces and easier to use. Since they are designed to open the throat by bringing the jaw forward and prevent the tongue and soft tissue from collapsing, they will relieve snoring and mild obstructive sleep apnea.
These devices are custom-made from fade-proof acrylic and provided by the dentist. And once the patient finds the perfect fit, regular dentist visits during the first year are crucial.
When nothing from the above works, the only solution is surgery. Surgical options include:
- Tissue removal or shrinking
- Nerve stimulation
- Jaw repositioning
- Removing enlarged tonsils
- Bariatric surgery
At The End Of The Day
Self-care and good sleep hygiene are the best way to help keep sleep apnea under control, but not all cases can be relieved with small adjustments like this.
The best type of treatment for sleep apnea will vary from person to person; usually, wearing a mandibular advancement device is more than enough to help you go through the night. Untreated sleep apnea is no joke, and it can cause a lot of problems with the cardiovascular system and dental health.
Most people that suffer from OSA are suffering from a condition called bruxism (teeth clenching and grinding). No matter how strong your teeth are, they still can’t handle this excessive pressure night after night, and they will soon start to wear down, chip, and break off.
Wearing dental appliances will affect your Calgary dental health only in a positive way, keeping TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) away and help your teeth stay strong and in great shape. If you have any problems with your sleeping appliance, consult your dentist, and he will correct the alignment considering that your jaw will start moving into the proper position over the course of a few weeks.