Your doctor diagnosed you with sleep apnea and suggested you speak with your dentist. You stare at your doctor trying to figure out why he would send you to a dentist for sleep problems. After all, your dentist specializes in taking care of your teeth, not your overall health. Surprisingly your oral health can influence the health of the rest of your body. As for sleep apnea yes, your dentist can help with that too.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs when you experience repeated breathing pauses while you sleep. This condition can occur many times and averages around 30 times per night.
One of the most common forms of this sleep disorder is Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This type of sleep disorder is caused by your muscles relaxing when you sleep. When this happens, the soft tissues in your mouth and throat move down and backward, and block your airways. Typically you don’t fully wake up during these sleep disturbances, but can feel the effects in the morning. You often still feel tired, even after you thought you had a good night’s sleep.
Central Sleep Apnea is another type of sleep disorder. This type of sleep apnea is less common than obstructive sleep apnea and can be caused by serious conditions such as heart failure or stroke. With Central Sleep Apnea your airways are not blocked. You can breathe, your brain is just not telling your body to breathe in and out like it normally would. During the night, your breathing starts and stops as you sleep due to improper messages from your brain to your muscles. As with obstructive sleep apnea, you don’t fully wake up, and your sleep is disrupted.
Sleep Apnea’s Common Symptoms and Risk Factors
Common symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, daytime drowsiness, dry mouth, sore throat, or a headache in the morning. Another symptom of sleep apnea is called bruxism. bruxism. Bruxism is caused by nighttime teeth grinding. Your dentist suggests you see your doctor about sleep apnea if he notices your teeth are worn down or cracked.
Sleep apnea can be a risk factor for other serious health issues. These risks include high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, irregular heart-beat, heart attacks, and diabetes. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can also worsen symptoms of depression and ADHD.
CPAP Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Depending on the cause of a sleep disorder, there are several treatments available for sleep apnea. Sometimes a simple change in sleeping habits, such as not sleeping on your back, can resolve the issue. Two common treatments for sleep apnea are the CPAP and oral appliance therapies.
CPAP stands for continuous positive air pressure. CPAP is a device that you wear at night that increases the air pressure in your throat to keep the soft tissues from blocking your airways. It can be a mask you wear over your nose and mouth or one that fits only over your nose. The mask over your nose is called a NCPAP, or nasal continuous positive air pressure. A CPAP device can also be just prongs that fit into your nose that also increases the air pressure in your throat.
How Your Dentist can help Your Sleep Apnea with Oral Appliance Therapies
Oral appliance therapies are devices worn in your mouth at night. The two most common types are the mandibular repositioning dental appliance, and the tongue retaining appliance.
The mandibular repositioning dental appliance pushes the lower jaw bone forward. The tongue retaining appliance keeps the tongue in place. Both devices keep the tongue from falling back into the throat and blocking the airway keeping the airways open for breathing. Oral appliance therapy devices can only be gotten through a prescription from a doctor. Once you have the device, your dentist or oral surgeon can properly fit the device to the specific needs of your mouth.
Over-the-counter oral night guards are available without a prescription. They are usually found at your local drugstore. Consult with your doctor or dentist before you consider using an over-the-counter device to treat your condition. This type of oral device may not be the right treatment for your sleep apnea. Using an incorrect treatment may not reduce the sleep apnea and may worsen your condition.
Prevention Tips for Better Sleep
Some risk factors for sleep apnea can’t be addressed such as family history and age. Other risk factors for sleep apnea can be addressed such as being over-weight, allergies, or sinus problems. Your doctor can help you with weight loss programs and ways to manage your allergies.
If you think you may be experiencing sleep apnea, during your routine checkup, you can talk to you dentist about any possible symptoms you are experiencing. A professionally trained dental office, such as Aesthetic Family Dentistry in Arizona, can help you to understand what sleep apnea is and what treatment options are available for you and your family members.