Resolve your sleep apnea with a visit to the dentist.

Have you ever been told you snore? Do you feel tired even after a full night’s sleep? It’s possible that your snoring is due to a condition called sleep apnea. This sleep disorder can result in your breathing suddenly and repeatedly stopping and starting during the night.

The American Sleep Apnea Association indicates that it has grown into a serious health concern in the United States. It is believed that at least 90 million Americans have suffered from sleep apnea during their life. And at least 80% of moderate to severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea remain undiagnosed.

There are the treatments available. But before we dive into what you can do about it, let’s make sure you understand some basic facts about the disorder.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three primary classifications of sleep apnea.

  • Obstructive –  is the most prevalent form and occurs when your throat muscles loosen up.
  • Central – occurs when your brain refrains from sending the proper signals to your muscles responsible for controlling how you breathe.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome occurs when you have obstructive as well as central.

Signs and Symptoms

As we mentioned, if you snore, and especially if you are a loud snorer, it can mean you have a serious health condition known as sleep apnea. But snoring is not the only symptom. Further, just because you snore doesn’t mean you have this condition. Check out this list of common signs and symptoms that indicate you might have this disorder.

  • Loud snoring
  • Periodic episodes where you stop breathing during your sleep (another person might notice this when watching you sleep)
  • Gasping for air to catch your breath while you sleep
  • Waking up in the morning or during the night with a dry mouth
  • Waking up in the morning with a headache
  • Insomnia (challenges with staying asleep)
  • Hypersomnia (daytime sleepiness that feels beyond what might be considered normal)
  • Difficulties with focus during waking hours
  • Irritability
  • Tooth grinding (bruxism)

You might be surprised to read that tooth grinding is a symptom of sleep apnea, however it is often one of the first signs of sleep apnea. Dentists can often identify if you are suffering from this disorder by asking a few questions about your sleep habits and identifying worn tooth surfaces that indicate you are grinding your teeth when you sleep.

Root Causes

Sleep apnea can affect anyone, children included. However, certain things might increase your  risk of developing it, including the following:

  • Excessive weight or obesity
  • Thicker neck circumference
  • A narrow throat
  • If you are male (males are up to three times more likely to suffer from this condition than women)
  • Age (the older you are, the greater your risk)
  • Family history
  • Use of alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers
  • Smoking (if you smoke, you are three times more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea than a non-smoker)
  • Nasal congestion
  • Medical conditions, including congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease
  • Additional medical conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome, hormonal disorders, prior stroke, chronic lung diseases, asthma, etc.

If you snore loudly, you may wish to talk to your doctor or dentist so you can participate in a sleep study. There are two standard tests used to diagnose sleep apnea. Home sleep tests measure your heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow, and breathing. Your doctor will direct you to participate in a sleep study at a sleep center in some cases. In this case, you will take nocturnal polysomnography. During this painless sleep test, you will be hooked up to unique medical technology that will monitor your heart, lung, and brain activity while also monitoring your breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels.

Can your dentist help treat your sleep apnea?

Many people assume that only their medical doctor can help treat the condition, but this is far from true. Often, a patient’s medical doctor and their dentist will partner together to help treat it. Though only your medical doctor can officially diagnose you with this condition, your dentist can help with your treatment. In fact, your dentist can help you with far more than routine dental visits and suggestions on how to maintain your oral health at home.

Dr. Harris is an excellent partner to patients experiencing sleep apnea. In many cases, he will suggest that you wear an oral appliance when you sleep. Mandibular advancement devices (MADs), sometimes called dental sleep devices or sleep apnea devices, are common oral appliances. These devices look very similar to mouth guards and work to push your lower jaw forward.

When wearing a MAD, your muscles will collapse during apnea episodes so they can’t fall. MADs can help make your airway stronger and more rigid with prolonged use to reduce or eliminate the apnea. Some oral devices can be adjusted, allowing you to alter your jaw position when the device is in place.

Though less common, Dr. Harris may also recommend a tongue-retaining device. These oral appliances are designed to push your tongue into a forward position to help keep your airway open.

Diagnosed with sleep apnea? Call Harris Dental today!

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, Harris Dental in Maryville, Missouri, can help. You don’t have to suffer from daily exhaustion due to snoring. Call us today or request an appointment so Dr. Harris can help you get a better night’s sleep.