Sleep Apnea is a condition where a person’s breathing becomes severely disrupted during sleep. Left untreated, sleep apnea causes the affected individual to repeatedly stop breathing during their sleep cycle. This leads to a situation where the supply of oxygen to the brain and body may not be adequate, further complicating the affected individual’s health.
Sleep apnea presents in two different forms. The more uncommon form is ‘central sleep apnea’, where an unstable respiratory control center in the brain fails to efficiently regulate the function of the muscle system used in breathing. The most common form of sleep apnea is called ‘obstructive sleep apnea’ (OSA), where the affected individual’s airway is blocked or obstructed by soft tissues at the back of the throat. These soft tissues are described to collapse or relax and settle in the airway, causing the obstruction symptomatic of sleep apnea.
Though males seem to be affected more, sleep apnea holds no reservations for age or gender when it comes to who is affected by it’s condition. There are risk factors however, that make an individual more prone to being affected by sleep apnea. These risk factors include:
Existing nasal obstructions, having large tonsils, a large tongue, small jaw bone, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), a family history of sleep apnea, and/or existing deformities or abnormalities of the throat or soft palate. Individuals who are overweight, older than 40, and those with larger necks (>17 inches) are also at increased risk.
If left untreated, sleep apnea affects the body leading to further health complications including chronic fatigue, headaches, depression, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and cardiac complications such as, heart attacks, irregular cardiac rhythms, and heart failure. That said, treatment is available and greatly reduces the risk of further health complications.
Treating Sleep Apnea
Traditionally sleep apnea has been treated by C-PAP therapy, where the affected individual wears an air-tight mask to bed that is attached to a machine that forces air into the individual’s lungs through positive pressure ventilation. Though C-PAP therapy is still the leading therapy for severe cases of sleep apnea, dental oral appliances are being widely used with success on individuals with mild to moderately severe cases of sleep apnea.
Dental Sleep Solutions® dentists such as Envision-Dental, specialize in oral appliance therapy, where the use of FDA-approved dental devices curb or control the collapsing of soft tissues like the tongue into the individual’s airway. This therapy allows individuals affected by sleep apnea to breathe easier, stop snoring, and ultimately sleep more soundly.
Dental sleep devices resemble a comfortable sports mouth guard that is worn in the mouth while sleeping. The device is designed to keep the airway open and jaw to be positioned forward, increasing the patient’s airflow for adequate breathing. With an open airway, snoring is decreased and the symptoms and negative health effects of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) are greatly diminished. Being a much less cumbersome and more comfortable option than C-PAP therapy, and far less invasive than surgical options, oral appliance therapy is not only beneficial to the patient’s overall health, but greatly benefits the patient’s quality of life as well.