What is sleep apnea?

An apnea is a short pause in breathing while sleeping. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA is usually due to a blockage of the throat by the tongue or soft mouth tissues while lying on the back. CSA is a disorder of the brain and requires prescription medication, but is relatively rare.

Apneas cause the brain to react by attempting to wake up the sleeper in order to take a deep breath and get more oxygen. This can happen hundreds of times a night and seriously disturbs sleep, even though the individual usually does not become fully awake and may remain unaware that this is happening. This can have very severe consequences, including increased risk for weight gain, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

What are the symptoms?

Chronic, loud snoring is the most common sign. However, snoring does not automatically mean the individual has sleep apnea; further test results are needed to make a diagnosis.

Cases of sleep apnea can range from mild to moderate to severe. In more serious cases, because of the constant disturbance of sleep, the individual awakens in the morning feeling very tired, may have trouble staying awake while driving, and may fall asleep suddenly at work, even in meetings. Sleep apnea patients may find it hard to concentrate or remember things they normally would have no trouble recalling. 

Another symptom is waking up with a sore throat because of breathing through the mouth, the feeling of “cotton mouth,” and morning migraines or headaches throughout the day. Individuals who have these apneas can feel depressed, anxious, or irritable. Males may experience erectile dysfunction.

To get tested for sleep apnea, Soothing Dental can connect you with a company that provides a home test kit, collects that data, and sends it to a sleep specialist for diagnosis. Based on your results, we can determine how best to proceed with sleep apnea treatment.

How is sleep apnea treated?

Because of our experience with oral health issues, Soothing Dental’s dentists are experts on OSA. The traditional therapy is a CPAP machine: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. This requires lying on your back while sleeping wearing a mask connected to a source of oxygen.

Another solution is to create a customized oral appliance, consisting of two hard plastic trays that fit over your upper and lower teeth to move your jaw slightly forward, keeping your airway from being blocked.

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