Sleep apnea is a medical condition that should never be ignored. When a person suffers from this disorder, he or she repeatedly starts and stops breathing when they are sleeping, and this may occur hundreds of times each night. Sleep apnea comes in many forms, with the most common being obstructive sleep apnea. This type of apnea occurs when the muscles of the throat relax. A dentist may need to be seen to assist in the treatment of this condition, one which is often marked by drowsiness during the day and loud snoring at night. What do individuals need to know about this condition?
The Dangers Of Sleep Apnea
When a person suffers from sleep apnea, they are at risk of low blood oxygen levels. In addition, the person lacks the sleep needed to function properly throughout the day. This may bring about fatigue, accidents at work, car accidents, and more.
Individuals with high blood pressure may find their condition worsens if they suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, and those with diabetes find they are more at risk of this condition. People who are overweight are more at risk of sleep apnea, and this condition makes it harder to lose the weight. These are only a few of the many dangers associated with this condition; thus treatment needs to be sought in a timely manner.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Many individuals suffer from this condition, yet don’t realize it. When a loved one complains about their loud snoring, they find there is an issue. Others report choking while sleeping or gasping for air, as reported by their loved ones. People who wake up with a headache every morning may suffer from sleep apnea, and those who have memory issues may be lacking sleep as a result of apnea.
A dry mouth or sore throat every morning is a sign of sleep apnea, along with restless moving during sleep. Individuals who get up repeatedly in the night to go to the bathroom may be suffering from sleep apnea, and the same is true of those who wake up at night from their own snoring or because they lack air. If you have any of these symptoms, you need to speak to your doctor or dentist to determine if sleep apnea is the issue.
The Types Of Sleep Apnea
There are three basic types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea remains the most common and occurs when the throat muscles relax when a person sleeps. These muscles support the structures of the mouth, such as the tonsils and soft palate. When they relax, the airway closes down, temporarily halting the passage of air. Once the brain realizes this is occurring, it wakes the person up to allow the airway to reopen. Most individuals don’t fully wake up when this happens, and the person may actually snort when the airway reopens. This can occur hundreds of times throughout the night.
Central sleep apnea, in contrast, takes place when the brain neglects to send the proper signals to the muscles involved in breathing. Individuals with this type of sleep apnea find they have trouble getting to sleep at night or remaining asleep. In addition, they often report they are short of breath, and this condition is very serious, as it may bring about heart disease or a stroke. With complex sleep apnea, the person suffers from both central and obstructive sleep apnea. This type of condition is very rare.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking, are often the first treatment recommendations for sleep apnea. For those who don’t benefit from these changes, a machine delivering air pressure via a mask is often prescribed, as it helps to keep the airways open. Some patients find they need a machine that not only delivers this air pressure but also automatically adjusts the pressure throughout the night. Oral appliances may be prescribed by a dentist to help keep the throat open by moving the jaw forward, and some patients find they need surgery to remove any excess tissue present in the throat or nose.
Different surgical options may be recommended by the dentist and medical team such as a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), which is performed in the back of the soft palate and throat. A similar procedure is sometimes done with the assistance of a laser and is called a laser-assisted uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (LAUPP). In other cases, a radio-frequency probe is utilized to tighten the soft palate. These procedures usually performed under light IV sedation in the office.
In more complex cases, the bones of the upper and lower jaw may be repositioned to increase the size of the airway (orthognathic surgery). This procedure is done in the hospital under general anesthesia and requires a one to two day overnight stay in the hospital.
If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your physician may recommend you see a dentist or oral surgeon as part of your treatment plan. The team works together to determine the correct treatment plan. Those who have yet to be diagnosed may find they have problems with their memory or snore loudly at night, and these symptoms need to be mentioned to the dentist. He or she looks to see if sleep apnea may be the cause and works with the patient and his or her medical team to find the right treatments. Contact us today at (202) 363-2500 if you suspect you have this problem or have already been diagnosed, as we’ll work with you to resolve the problem and allow you to get a good night’s sleep once again. In addition to Sleep Apnea treatments, we provided many additional general and cosmetic dentistry services to meet your oral health needs.