Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea which occurs when a person’s airway closes and prevents them from taking a breath for at least 10 seconds. Think about this: the average person breathes 12-14 times per minute; that’s once every 4-5 seconds. The typical pause in breathing that happens during sleep apnea lasts for 20-40 seconds. That’s only two or three breaths every minute! Now imagine if you spend a good portion of your night breathing like that; you’d be exhausted!
And in fact, waking up feeling tired is one of the main signs of obstructive sleep apnea. Daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, restless sleep, morning headaches, elevated blood pressure, anxiety, depression, unexplained weight gain, acid reflux, night sweats, and irritability are all common signs and symptoms.
Effects of Sleep Apnea
The trickiest part is, most people don’t realize that they’re suffering from OSA. Usually a bed partner or family member can hear the loud snores or gasps and push their loved one to pursue treatment, so keep an ear out when the ones you care about are sleeping! That feeling of exhaustion isn’t limited to just that, your organs are worn out too! During those periods of not breathing, the amount of oxygen that is present in your heart, liver, kidneys, brain, and other organs plummets, and those very important tissues start to suffer.
Think of it like your insides are aging faster than your outsides. With that comes more systemic issues such as generalized inflammation which causes diabetes, blood pressure, and weight gain, among other things. Many patients who have been frustrated with their inability to control their blood sugar or blood pressure have found they are finally able to do so after being diagnosed and treated for sleep apnea.
Treating Sleep Apnea
Treating sleep apnea always begins with a proper diagnosis. Treatment is often a multidisciplinary approach. We believe in working with ENTs and Sleep Physicians as well as Orthodontists to get the most ideal results for long term success in each of our patients that may be suffering from sleep apnea. There are a few ways, and some are more pleasant than others. Some patients undergo surgeries to try to open their airway more. A surgical solution involves a referral to our trusted ENT doctors. We like to be certain surgery is required before referring patients down this treatment path. There are less invasive ways to treat sleep apnea, including continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices. These will be prescribed by a sleep physician, often times after an overnight sleep study.
These devices are considered the gold standard.Tolerance and compliance can be a factor. We can also offer a dental solution when a sleep device is deemed appropriate. We call the dental devices oral appliances. There are multiple steps in determining which type of appliance is appropriate for each individual patient. Of course we are happy to go down this treatment path with you and help regain the restful, healing, high quality sleep that you want and deserve.
A sleep apnea oral appliance is very similar to night guards worn for clenching and grinding, and most patients find that they’re not only comfortable but surprisingly effective.
If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from sleep apnea or heavy snoring, call us to discuss your options.