Even though it’s part of the name, obstructive sleep apnea affects more than how you sleep. It can also impact your breathing, health, energy levels, and overall sense of well-being. It may even have a negative effect on anyone sleeping near you! Here at Accent Smile Center, we’re able to successfully treat this disorder using cutting-edge dentistry, but what exactly is obstructive sleep apnea? How do you know if you have it? We’ll answer these questions and more below! Keep reading to learn how Dr. Gatgens and our expert team are solving obstructive sleep apnea through dentistry.
The basics of sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. This often occurs when abnormalities in the oral air passages cause the soft tissues and tongue to block the body’s airways, preventing you from getting the oxygen you need. Breathing stops for a few seconds, causing the brain to send out a “wake up” alarm to the body. When normal breathing resumes, it’s often accompanied by choking, loud snoring, or a snorting sound.
This process is sometimes repeated dozens of times each night, but since the patient is sleeping when it happens, they are often unaware anything out of the ordinary is occurring. Many feel exhausted daily and wonder why it seems like they’re running on empty even if they get a full night’s sleep. Some don’t realize anything is amiss until a partner or family member mentions their snoring or choking!
Obesity, excessive alcohol use, and certain medications can contribute to or worsen sleep apnea, but it may also be related to your specific sleep habits or the way your jaw is structured can be the cause of it as well. There are certain symptoms associated with this sleep disorder, if you know what you’re looking for. Aside from the aforementioned snoring, choking, and snorting while sleeping, these often include:
- excessive drowsiness during the day
- feeling like you never get a good night’s sleep
- lack of REM sleep or dreaming
As well as being an annoyance, sleep apnea can cause or contribute to health issues like high blood pressure and heart problems. The good news is, something as simple as a dental appliance can help resolve these frustrating symptoms and side effects!
Treating sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is more common than you might think, affecting about one out of every five Americans. Out of the dozens of patients we see daily here at Accent Smile Center, anywhere from 4-6 are likely to be affected by sleep apnea. That’s why our Dickson practice is committed to doing proper screenings for this disorder! Our team is familiar with the common signs and symptoms, and we look at everything from teeth wear and tongue position to airway size and dental occlusion to determine if there are any risk factors present for sleep apnea.
Once we have completed a screening evaluation, patients suspected of having obstructive sleep apnea will be asked to fill out a thorough questionnaire. This gives us more information on their sleeping habits, fatigue levels, snoring or choking, and any episodes they can remember where they stopped breathing while sleeping. If there are significant risk factors present, we will generally recommend they have an official sleep test performed at home or in a lab. The results from this will give us the critical date we need to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. With a diagnosis in place, Dr. Gatgens can move forward with treatment!
Using oral appliances to resolve obstructive sleep apnea
Oral appliances are able to resolve mild to moderate sleep apnea in most patients. A digital scan of the upper and lower teeth is taken using our 3-D CBCT machine. This scan will perform an airway analysis that returns an algorithm and also gives us measurements that will show any anatomical narrowing of the airway. We send this information to a laboratory where a customized sleep appliance will be fashioned for each patient based on their specific needs. This appliance positions the lower jaw forward as the patient sleeps, keeping their airway clear and allowing them to breathe freely throughout the night.
Our team will ensure the fit is correct before sending patients home with detailed instructions. We’ll generally follow up within two weeks to check that the patient is utilizing the device properly and finding some relief with it. If any adjustments are needed, we’ll work these out until the patient is getting the maximum benefit from their appliance! At this point, we’ll often repeat their sleep test to make sure their sleep apnea is being treated successfully.
An expertly fitted device will help patients improve their sleep and enjoy better health in general! It can also reduce the risk factors for other medical conditions and complications.
Get a good night’s sleep again with Accent Smile Center
Are you tired of feeling, well, tired? We can help! Diagnosing and treating obstructive sleep apnea can change your life and leave you feeling rested and energized each morning. Our customized oral appliances are simple to use while you sleep, and restore your breathing without cumbersome masks and machines. If you are suffering from symptoms associated with sleep apnea, we encourage you to get in touch and schedule an appointment with us. Dr. Gatgens and our talented team will be happy to help you take the first steps towards quiet nights of restful sleep for you and your whole family!