Why would your dentist want to know about how you sleep? The answer to that question may be literally keeping you awake at night. Sleep apnea is a chronic condition in which a person’s airway is blocked when they sleep, and it has reached epidemic proportions. While the condition is usually diagnosed by a doctor or sleep specialist, your dentist may hold the key to sleep apnea causes and the best treatments.
Sleep Apnea Causes and Why Should We Be Worried About It?
Basically speaking, sleep apnea occurs when something interrupts the breathing process, cutting off oxygen to the brain and causing an individual to snore or even gasp for air. There are two types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): The more common of the two forms of apnea, it is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep.
- Central sleep apnea: Unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, due to a problem in the respiratory control center.
Approximately 25 million adults in the U.S. have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which can cause them to stop breathing hundreds of times a night for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute. For an individual, the effects of sleep apnea can range from mild headaches and drowsiness to an increased risk of stroke or heart failure. So sleep apnea is definitely something to lose sleep over.
How Can You Tell If You Suffer from Sleep Apnea?
Anyone can suffer from sleep apnea – even children. But some factors increase an individual’s risk. They include:
- Being male
- Being overweight
- Being over age 40
- Having a large neck size (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women)
- Having large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
- Gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD
- Having a nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problem
The signs and symptoms of sleep apnea are as wide ranging as the disorder’s effects. Mood swings, sore throat, and even weight gain can be subtle signals that you suffer from sleep apnea. To get an accurate diagnosis, doctors will usually refer patients to a sleep clinic where their sleeping patterns can be closely monitored. Then a treatment plan is developed, which – depending on severity and patient preference – may include lifestyle changes, appliances to aid in breathing, or even surgery.
How Can a Dentist Help with Sleep Apnea?
Keeping your airway unobstructed is the key to keeping sleep apnea at bay, and dentists have two primary methods for accomplishing this. The first and most well-known way is through a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. A CPAP machine supplies constant and steady air pressure to a patient through a mask or nose piece attached to a small pressurizing device. The pressurized air improves airflow to the patient while he or she sleeps, preventing apnea.
For other patients, a dentist may recommend a specialized oral appliance similar to mouth guards worn by athletes. The appliance works by:
- Repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate, and uvula
- Stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue
- Increasing the muscle tone of the tongue
All of these factors work together to decrease or remove airway obstructions and improve breathing during sleep.
Pointe Dental Group Specializes in Sleep Apnea Treatment!
One of our dental specialists, Dr. Paul Van Walleghem, specializes in dental sleep medicine and recently became an American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM) Diplomate. ABDSM is the board for the leading national organization for dentists who treat snoring and obstructive sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy, an effective alternative treatment to the CPAP machine.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea and would like to explore dental treatments, contact us today!
- Grosse Pointe Farms (313) 881-2480
- Shelby Township (586) 803-8300.
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Sleep Apnea Dentist in SE Michigan
Have a question about the connection between oral health and sleep apnea? Pointe Dental Group is here to help!
Contact Pointe Dental’s Sleep Apnea Dentist in SE Michigan at either of our convenient locations:
Grosse Pointe Farms
18342 Mack Avenue
Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236
50505 Schoenherr Rd # 170
Shelby Township, MI 48315