How a Dentist Can Help with Obstructive Sleep Apnea

One of the most common causes for poor sleep is obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious disorder that causes individuals to have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while they sleep.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is typically caused by soft tissue in the back of the throat that collapses while you sleep and creates a blockage of the airway. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you typically move to a light sleep, thus the quality of the sleep is poor.

People with untreated sleep apnea are often tired and lethargic, and may fall asleep during the day. They may also suffer from health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and mood disorders such as depression.

Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea

A sleep specialist is the only person who can diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. However, your dentist can play an important role in helping you understand your treatment options.

Oftentimes individuals with sleep apnea are prescribed a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which keeps the airways open during sleep. The machine includes a device that fits over your nose and mouth, a tube that connects the mask to the machine’s motor, and a motor that blows air into the tube.

Oral appliance therapy can offer an alternative to the CPAP machine, particularly for patients of normal weight with mild to moderate sleep apnea. An oral device can help prevent the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues in the back of the throat and keep the airway open during sleep to promote adequate air intake. These appliances can also be used in conjunction with other treatments for sleep apnea, such as losing weight, surgery or CPAP.

Oral appliances work by repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula; stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue; and increasing the muscle tone of the tongue. There are many different types of appliances available, including the mandibular advancement device, which looks like a mouthguard. It is important to work with a dentist familiar with the appliances to fit you and find the right one for your specific needs.

Advantages of Oral Appliances

Some of the advantages of oral appliance therapy include:

  • Comfort. Most people find the appliances easy to wear after a few weeks.
  • Convenience. The appliances are small and convenient to carry when traveling.
  • Non-invasive. Oral appliances are a non-invasive way to treat sleep apnea.

Researchers are finding more and more evidence that good sleep is crucial to your overall health and well-being. Talk to your doctor and dentist if you are excessively tired during the day or your partner tells you that you are a heavy snorer. Oral appliance therapy is just one of many ways to help sleep better.

Do you have questions about sleep apnea and how a dentist can help?
Contact Enlighten Dental Care today!

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