Sleep apnea affects millions of Americans. It is a serious sleep disorder that causes multiple pauses in breathing as you sleep. These moments of breathing cessation prevent restful sleep and increase the risk of serious health problems. At The Smile Centre, our experienced dentists provide treatment for mild to moderate sleep apnea.
To arrange your sleep apnea consultation, contact us today. If you live in the Sarasota area of Florida, contact our Palm Aire location online or at 941-351-4468. If you live in or around Florida, please contact us online. With three convenient locations, we serve patients from in and around Sarasota, and Bradenton, Florida.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
There are two types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common. It is caused by blockage in the airway, which occurs when throat tissues or the tongue relax too far into the airway. Central sleep apnea is less common and is caused by your brain failing to signal your breathing muscles while you sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is the form treated by our dentists.
When an OSA episode occurs, your airway is blocked off from the flow of oxygen. You will instinctively wake up so that your throat muscles tighten and unblock your airway. A partner may hear you gasp or make a choking noise as you awaken. These episodes in which you aren't breathing can occur hundreds of times a night. It makes it impossible to get the rest you need.
Sleep apnea can be really difficult to recognize in yourself. Typically, you won't be aware of the multiple awakenings during the night. However, if you feel excessively tired all of the time and a family member has noticed loud snoring, choking or gasping while you sleep, you may suffer from this common sleep disorder. Symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Chronic headaches
- Extreme drowsiness during the day
- Concentration problems
- Impaired memory
- Irritability, depression, anxiety or other mood changes
- Falling asleep at work, while driving or at other times during your day
- Dry mouth upon waking
If you think you may have sleep apnea, please call The Smile Centre to schedule an evaluation.
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
When sleep apnea causes snoring, the snoring is caused by the vibration of the collapsed throat tissues as air passes by them. The greater the airway blockage, the louder the snoring, although snoring will cease if the airway becomes completely blocked. Your body essentially panics when this cessation of breathing occurs, causing you to awaken slightly from sleep.
Not all people who snore have sleep apnea, but most sleep apnea sufferers snore. At The Smile Centre, our custom oral appliances prevent episodes of snoring and breathing cessation, so that you can get the rest you so desperately need.
What Happens if Sleep Apnea Goes Untreated?
Untreated sleep apnea may result in excessive daytime fatigue, memory and concentration problems, and mood disorders such as depression. It can cause consistent discomfort including frequent sore throat, dry mouth, and chronic headaches as well. Perhaps most worrisome, untreated sleep apnea is linked to heart attack and stroke, hypertension (high blood pressure), metabolic syndrome, abnormal liver function, and an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Sleep apnea may also increase the risk of breathing difficulties during surgery and while taking certain medications.
What Can I Do on My Own to Improve My Sleep Apnea?
If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, lifestyle changes can help reduce its prevalence. These include: Not smoking Losing weight Adopting a healthy diet Getting plenty of exercise Avoiding narcotics and marijuana Avoiding alcohol and sedatives Some instances of sleep apnea are genetic. People with a family history of the disorder may find lifestyle changes make little to no difference. However, for many of the estimated 18 million people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, leading a healthy lifestyle can have a profound impact on the disorder.
The Effect on Your Health and Wellness
Sleep apnea reduces the flow of oxygen to your brain, and prevents your body and brain from getting the rest needed to function well. Over time, OSA can have a serious effect on your wellness. The repeated drops in blood oxygen level causes an increase in stress hormones, which raises your heart rate and can lead to cardiovascular problems. OSA increases the risk of serious health problems, such as:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Chronic headaches
- Decreased sex drive
- Daytime fatigue that can make driving dangerous
Sleep apnea can also affect the way your body uses and stores energy. Because of these changes, sleep apnea has been linked to diabetes and obesity.
The degree to which OSA can affect all areas of your life is significant. Sleep apnea can cause drowsiness and poor performance while you are working. It may begin to affect your standing at your workplace. You may also be dangerously drowsy while you drive, which could be so extreme as to cause you to fall asleep behind the wheel. Not only that, but you may be experiencing severe mood effects, including depression and anxiety. Get treatment now to reverse the way sleep apnea has affected your life. Getting good sleep is important to your happiness and health.
Sleep Apnea Risk Factors
Certain factors increase your risk for developing sleep apnea:
- Being male
- Large neck size
- Larger tonsils or tongue than normal
- Being overweight (according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, half of sleep apnea sufferers are overweight)
- Alcohol use
- Over age 40
- Family history of sleep apnea
It's entirely possible to have none of these risk factors and still suffer from sleep apnea. As part of your consultation at The Smile Centre, we will review your health and family history, as well as the presence of any risk factors, to determine if you can benefit from sleep apnea treatment.
How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Sleep apnea is commonly treated with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), a machine that supplies a steady flow of oxygen while you sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea may be treatable with an oral device, such as a snore guard, that helps to keep soft tissue and the tongue in place while holding the jaw at an angle that allows for more effective airflow. In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to treat sleep apnea, though this is typically a last resort.
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How Do I Prepare for Sleep Apnea Treatment?
You will need to undergo a sleep test to determine if you are suffering from sleep apnea. Additional tests may be needed to diagnose central sleep apnea. These are typically administered by a somnologist or neurologist. Sleep apnea treatments are self-administered. If you receive a diagnosis, you will simply need to meet with the appropriate medical professional to receive your treatment device – an oral device for obstructive sleep apnea as prescribed by a dentist, or a CPAP machine for central sleep apnea as recommended by a physician.
Are There Alternatives to CPAP Machines?
While central sleep apnea is often best treated with CPAP, there are alternatives to these devices for individuals with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A snore guard in combination with lifestyle changes is often sufficient for dealing with OSA.
Will Treatment Permanently Address My Sleep Apnea?
Barring surgical treatment, there is no permanent fix for sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is a neurological disorder and will likely require CPAP treatment for life. Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic condition that may diminish with lifestyle changes, but will not be “cured” by a snore guard alone.
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
Your symptoms may tell your doctor or dentist a lot about the quality of your sleep and the potential presence of sleep apnea. We can gain a great deal of insight by reviewing your symptoms, medical history, lifestyle, and anatomy. That said, a consultation and examination are not enough to reach an accurate diagnosis. Your healthcare provider must still perform some type of testing to confirm or rule out sleep apnea.
A formal sleep study, called polysomnography, is the most accurate test for the diagnosis of sleep apnea. The most comprehensive data is obtained in a sleep study conducted in a lab. To have a lab-centered sleep study, you'd spend the night in a sleep lab. Nothing about your normal schedule would change, you simply won't sleep at home. Before you go to sleep, the staff will hook you up to multiple comfortable monitors, each of which will measure important vital signs related to snoring, breathing, level of oxygenation, and more.
Another form of polysomnography that's available today, and quite common, is the home sleep study. A doctor or dentist can order a sleep study that you conduct on your own in the comfort of your home. Although the home sleep study can capture multiple forms of data that can indicate sleep apnea, there is no clinical oversight and fewer pieces of data are obtained overall. Still, many patients have received an accurate diagnosis from their home sleep study, leading to appropriate treatment.
Why is Sleep Apnea a Risk for Cardiovascular Disease and Heart Attack?
If you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing up to several times every hour that you sleep. When you stop breathing, your oxygen level drops. Reacting to this, your body produces adrenaline to jolt you awake just enough to resume breathing. The repeated increase in adrenaline in the blood contributes to high blood pressure. Over time, these surges in blood pressure can cause damage to your blood vessels. Studies also demonstrate that disruptions in sleep correlate with increased levels of LDL cholesterol and other fats in the blood that are known to contribute to clogged arteries. These conditions, as well as the stress on the heart muscle during sleep apnea episodes, make a person with sleep apnea two times as likely to have a heart attack as a person without this sleep disorder.
How Does My Weight Affect My Risk of Sleep Apnea?
Your risk of developing sleep apnea can relate to a number of factors. Weight is one of them, and it may not be as uncommon as you'd think. Studies indicate that even a 10 percent gain in body weight can increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea six-fold. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common among people who are overweight or obese because there is a greater instance of pharyngeal fat. These fat deposits around the neck can block the airway during sleep because the body is so deeply relaxed. Excessive abdominal fat can also contribute to the risk of obstructive sleep apnea by compressing the lungs, and decreasing the volume of air the lungs can hold.
Call The Smile Centre For Sleep Apnea Treatment In Sarasota!
If you live in Sarasota, Bradenton, Florida and want to learn more about sleep apnea and how our dentists can help, contact The Smile Centre today to schedule a confidential consultation. If you live in the Sarasota area of Florida, contact our Palm Aire location online or at 941-351-4468. If you live in or around Florida, please contact us online.