Obstructed Airways and Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that can be easily mistaken as chronic snoring. There are significant differences between the two; differences that can have an enormous effect on general health and wellbeing. According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 70 million people in our country may have this condition, with many thinking they only snore. Due to the health implications of sleep apnea and obstructed airways, obtaining an accurate diagnosis is imperative.

Sleep Apnea

About Sleep Apnea

Functional breathing allows air to pass through the throat and the windpipe and into the lungs. While we are awake, muscles around the throat, neck, and windpipe keep the airway open. Many people experience closing of the airway when muscles fully relax in sleep. Snoring occurs as air passes through a partially closed airway, causing vibrations in soft tissues. Obstructive sleep apnea goes a step beyond snoring.

Some people, when they sleep, will experience the full closure of the airway. This may initially sound like very loud snoring, before the airway becomes completely blocked by tissue. Loud noise, however, is marked by moments of silence. This means that air has stopped moving into the lungs, and that no oxygen is being delivered to the brain and body.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Nashua NH - Oral Appliance for Snoring

Sleep Apnea Treatment Nashua NH - Oral Appliance for Snoring
Dr Jonathan Parker talked with Dr. Mike Milligan about what patients should know about Sleep Apnea Treatment

Hi, I’m Dr. Mike Milligan, a dentist from Illinois, and I’m here with Dr. Jonathan Parker of Minneapolis St. Paul, one of the world-renowned experts in snoring and sleep apnea. Jonathan, thank you so much for being with us.

Thanks, Mike. I’m glad to be here.

So, as a dentist, can you compare people who maybe have used CPAP to oral appliance therapy, and for those who can’t wear the CPAP, why they might want to choose an oral appliance?

Well, about 50% of patients who have been prescribed CPAP are not able to tolerate it. So there’s a huge population of people out there who are looking for answers. An oral appliance is a simpler method. Essentially, the device will hold the jaw slightly forward, which opens the airway to allow them to breathe.

In patients with mild sleep apnea, these devices are somewhere between 70 and 80% successful. For people with moderate apnea, it’s somewhere in the 60 to 70% range. Even for people with severe apnea, it’s somewhere in the 40 to 60% range. So it’s an alternative that people are able to tolerate and comply with, and it is very effective in many patients.

If you have somebody who’s suffering from sleep apnea and the health effects of that, you know, cardiovascular problems, increased risk of diabetes, etc., then we need to find something that they can tolerate and use effectively. An oral appliance is a great alternative to CPAP.

Now, what about kids, young people who snore or have other problems?

What we know is that kids shouldn’t snore. It’s an indication of a breathing problem at night. Research studies have shown it impacts behavior and function during the day and has also been connected with ADD. So we need to identify these kids who are having problems.

As a dentist, when we see kids come into the office, simple questions to the parents like, “Does your child snore or do they struggle breathing at all at night?” can help identify them. Allergies are a simple way to identify these issues, and then we can advocate for them to get it managed.

Snoring is an indication of struggling to breathe, and it will impact growth and development. These kids may eventually become adults with apnea, struggling with all these symptoms and health problems. We can prevent many problems once they reach adulthood if we catch them early in their growth and development. Training them to swallow properly, breathe properly, and get their mouth structures right is crucial.

Getting them into therapies, like structural therapies to help their growth and development, is really a big deal.

Jonathan, thank you so much for being with us.

Thanks, Mike.

After a short silence, the person with obstructive sleep apnea may gasp or choke before snoring resumes. This pattern may occur several hundred times in a given night. Frighteningly, the affected person may be completely unaware of what is happening because the sleeper is typically never fully roused.

Some of the symptoms that may indicate obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Chronic fatigue even with ample sleep
  • Frequent morning headaches or sore throat
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering information
  • Poor work performance
  • Tendency toward clumsiness
  • Irritability or unstable mood swings

Help for obstructive sleep apnea can be found in the office of your Nashua dentist

Though medical treatment for sleep apnea exists, statistics show that compliance with CPAP is quite low due to unpleasant side effects. At Nashua Cosmetic and Restorative Dentistry, P.L.L.C., patients with chronic snoring and sleep apnea may benefit from the design and use of a custom-fit oral appliance. This discreet, comfortable mouthpiece is worn during sleeping hours. Gently repositioning the jaw, the oral appliance prevents closure that robs the body of oxygen and the patient of healthy sleep.

For more information on sleep apnea treatment, contact our New Hampshire dental office.