We spend, on average, a third of our lives sleeping. Sleep is incredibly important to human function. Without proper rest, we become vulnerable to disease, malaise, and impaired cognition. Many people suffer from sleep disorders like excessive snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and receiving treatment is necessary for achieving rejuvenating rest. Dr. Weakley offers dental sleep medicine in the form of oral appliance therapy that can improve the effects and symptoms of snoring and OSA.
Sleep Apnea and its Causes
Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder where the airway becomes obstructed during sleep. Airway obstruction causes breathing cessation. Since a person is sleeping when this happens, breathing cessation can last for a minute or so before the brain sends waking signals to the body. The sleeper will rouse slightly to reinitiate the breathing cycle. Episodes of apnea can occur hundreds of times throughout a person’s rest; thereby, preventing a natural progression through each stage of sleep.
Airway obstruction can originate from excessive soft tissue growth, bulky throat tissue, and malocclusions that narrow the airway. Sometimes, weight gain is responsible for the development of sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
A common symptom of sleep apnea is loud and excessive snoring but there are many other symptoms that can accompany this condition. Common symptoms of OSA include waking with dry mouth and headaches, feeling groggy and fatigued after a full night of sleep, irritability, depression, memory loss, and difficulty staying awake during the day. Some patients with sleep apnea are prone to hypoxemia due to breathing cessation. Since sleep deprivation produces a variety of symptoms, patients might mistake their malaise for other conditions.
Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea and Snoring
There are a few approaches to treating sleep apnea. After a diagnosis is confirmed with a sleep study, patients may seek treatment from a dentist or oral surgeon. While surgery is necessary for some people, there are non-invasive treatment options such as CPAP and oral appliance therapy. In recent years, oral appliance therapy has become very popular. This treatment option is portable, does not require bulky or loud machinery, and is comfortable. Oral appliance therapy involves wearing a custom retainer-like apparatus that pushes the lower mandible (jaw) outward. This appliance is only worn during sleep and since it is custom made, it will fit in the mouth comfortably.
If you believe you might have sleep apnea, a sleep study is necessary to confirm this condition. After a diagnosis, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Weakley.
If left untreated, research suggests that sleep apnea can be a serious threat to one’s health and wellbeing. Sleep apnea causes sleep deprivation, abnormal heart rates, and disrupted respiratory function.
Sleep deprivation has many effects on a person's wellbeing, including psychological, cognitive, and physical issues. For example, sleep deprivation affects the body’s ability to detoxify and rejuvenate tissue. It also causes issues with memory and mood. When a person has multiple episodes of apnea during rest, he or she will not maintain a slow, steady heart rate. An erratic heart rate can weaken the cardiovascular system. The gas exchange is affected as well since regular breathing patterns are disrupted. Patients with untreated sleep apnea are at risk for becoming hypoxic (low oxygen levels in the blood). Diagnosing and treating sleep apnea is imperative for enjoying proper, restful sleep.
Yes, some dentists can help with sleep apnea. After a patient with suspected sleep disorders undergoes a sleep study to confirm an accurate diagnosis, Dr. Weakley can examine a patient’s airways and occlusion to determine if oral appliance therapy can help mitigate episodes of apnea.
In some cases, patients may require surgical treatment if they have developmental or congenital abnormalities or malocclusions. If a patient is a good candidate for oral appliance therapy, our dentist will take impressions of the mouth to develop the specifications necessary to fabricate a custom appliance that accommodates jaw positioning and a person’s unique oral anatomy.