Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a disorder that causes the upper airway to become blocked by the surrounding soft tissues, including the tongue, which restricts the passage of air to the lungs during sleep. When a patient’s sleep apnea is mild, the worst symptom may simply be a case of nightly snoring. However, obstructive sleep apnea can progress to the point where the airway becomes completely blocked for a full minute or more per episode. During this time, no air gets in or out of the lungs.
When the body subconsciously realizes it is suffocating itself, it tries to shift the jaw to create more room for the tongue. This shifting motion causes the patient’s teeth to grind together, a condition clinically known as bruxism. Once the body has shifted to reopen the airway, breathing resumes and the body begins to relax. Unfortunately, this just starts another cycle where the lower jaw pulls back and the tongue is once again forced to the back of the throat. The patient can no longer breathe, and the body uncomfortably shifts to reopen the airway.
If you have ever tried to hold your breath for more than a minute you know how just difficult it is to make it the full 60 seconds. With some people, breathing stoppages of up to a minute can happen frequently throughout the night and absolutely prevent a decent night’s sleep. In the most severe cases, obstructive sleep apnea can actually be fatal. While nightly snoring may seem more amusing than serious, untreated sleep apnea can be deadly.
Treating Sleep ApneaTraditionally, physicians have prescribed a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine to treat apnea patients. While CPAP machines are very effective in forcing air past any blockage and down the throat, the machine also tends to be bulky, noisy, and restrictive. Featuring a series of hoses and a pump, getting hooked up to a CPAP machine can often feel like being on Life Support. Well, that’s because in many ways it IS life support.
While physicians tackle the treatment of apnea one way, dentists see it differently. In the vast majority of cases, we can treat the bruxism, and in doing so also control the obstructive sleep apnea. That’s because we can position the lower jaw in such a way as to create adequate room for the tongue to move forward and free up the airway. It is a simple and straightforward solution that completely does away with tubes and pumps, replacing them instead with a single computer-manufactured dental appliance.
Can a simple nighttime mouth guard really prevent sleep apnea and nightly snoring? In the vast majority of cases, it actually does. In fact, it is recognized by the Association of Sleep Physicians as equal in effectiveness to CPAP machines as a primary treatment of sleep apnea, with the exception of extremely severe cases. Patients are also more likely to agree to apnea treatment when they don’t have to wear a cumbersome mask to bed every night.
Don’t Let Apnea Ruin Another Night’s SleepThe team at Advanced Dental Arts NW takes obstructive sleep apnea very seriously. If you or someone you know suffers from obstructive sleep apnea or is tired of wearing their CPAP machine, please give us a call. We can create a far more comfortable appliance that will help prevent bruxism and greatly improve sleep apnea for most patients. And because sleep apnea is a medical condition, your insurance may cover a significant portion of the device.
Since sleep apnea only occurs during rest, many patients may not even realize they suffer from the disorder until a restless bed partner or roommate complains about their snoring habit. Sleep apnea is easily diagnosable with our in-home apnea test. One night wearing a comfortable sleep monitor will provide our Portland sleep dentist, Dr. Teasdale, the information needed to make a tentative apnea diagnosis; our office will then forward that data to your physician, for a definitive diagnosis.
Call today to schedule your sleep apnea consultation. Because people are more than just teeth, and everyone needs and deserves a goodnight’s sleep.