At Enlighten Dental Care, we sometimes have patients who fall asleep as we are are working on their teeth. while this could be a result of our relaxing chairs or calm, gentle demeanor while working on teeth, the more likely cause is that the patient is not getting a good night’s sleep.
One of the most common causes for poor sleep is obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious discarder that causes a person to have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while he or she sleeps. It is typically caused soft tissue in the back of the throat that collapses while you sleep creating a blockage of the airway,
This chronic condition tends to seriously disrupt your sleep. How? When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you typically move to a light sleep. Thus, the quality of your sleep is poor, and you are tired during the day …
And you can easily fall asleep in the dentist’s chair! (Or at your desk at work.)
A sleep specialist is the only person who can diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. To treat the disorder, a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is often prescribed to keep 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.
If you are feeling excessively tired during the day, have been diagnosed with sleep apnea or would prefer to try an alternative to CPAP, talk to your dentist. Oral appliance therapy may offer you an alternative to the CPAP machine. A device similar to a retainer 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 cotter treatments for sleep apnea, such as losing weight, surgery or CPAP.
How do they work? 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, so it is important to work with a dentist familiar with the appliances to fit you and find the right one for your specific needs.
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. Untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk of such conditions as heart attack, stroke, obesity and diabetes. 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.