Sleep apnea is a common, yet under-diagnosed, condition. It’s estimated that one of every five Americans has at least mild obstructive sleep apnea, the most prevalent form of this disease. Serious whole-body complications can be avoided at the dentist’s office. Sleep Apnea Treatment in Nashua with Drs. Randall G. Viola and Judith A. Whitcomb is convenient, comfortable, and works for many patients when cumbersome treatments like CPAP therapy have failed due to non-compliance. Before the team at Nashua Cosmetic & Restorative Dentistry works with you and your family physician or sleep specialist to relieve associated symptoms, it’s important to understand more about the condition and what causes sleep apnea in the first place.
“Apnea” is a fitting term, because in Greek it means “without breath.” As scary as it sounds, that definition is exactly what happens during apneic episodes. People with this condition are unable to breathe properly when they sleep. Not all sleep apnea is the same. There are different causes and characteristics of the three main types of apnea, which are:
- Complex, treatment-emergent central, or mixed
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax when you’re sleeping. Overly relaxed tissues block your airway. When your brain realizes you can’t breathe, you’ll awaken with a snort or gasp. Your airway is reopened, and you resume breathing and sleeping. This dangerous process may be repeated 30 or more times each hour. Central sleep apnea (CSA) happens when the brain doesn’t signal the muscles that control your breathing. Those with central sleep apnea may be more likely to recall waking up from deep sleep out of breath, and they may have more difficulty falling asleep again than their OSA counterparts. As a mix of both CSA and OSA, complex sleep apnea sufferers are unable to breathe properly even after the airway is reopened due to the characteristics of central sleep apnea that arise after obstructive sleep apnea appears to have subsided.
OSA has troubling, disruptive, and unhealthy symptoms with effects that often go beyond the apnea sufferer. These signs include:
- Very loud snoring, which occurs right before lax tissues block the airway, and can interrupt partner’s and family member’s sleep
- Unexplained daytime drowsiness
- Dry mouth
- Sore throat
- Problems concentrating
Due to the serious nature of this condition, if OSA goes untreated, it can lead to a whole host of complications, ranging from hypertension and heart disease to memory-related and cognitive decline. Fatigue caused by a lack of healthy, quality sleep can affect everything you do during the day, interfering with school and work performance. Drowsy drivers have been compared to those who are driving under the influence of drugs, and countries with consistent crash reporting like Australia, England, and Finland attribute 10 to 30 percent of all vehicular accidents to fatigue behind the wheel. Relationships also suffer, due to the heavy and frequent snoring that accompanies sleep apnea.
Restore quality sleep & quality of life
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends oral appliances for treatment of mild to moderate OSA. While these devices resemble those worn to protect teeth from nighttime clenching and grinding, they are designed to hold your jaw slightly open and forward so overly relaxed tissues don’t block your airway. You may prefer these types of appliances to the hassle of being connected to a CPAP machine. Since CPAP machines involve wearing a mask that delivers continuous airway pressure, it can require trial and error to adjust the straps in a way that’s comfortable enough for you to sleep. The low compliance rates suggest that many people never get used to CPAP therapy, and treatment isn’t effective if it isn’t used.
When fitted by qualified dental professionals like Drs. Viola and Whitcomb, these mouthpieces don’t require a cumbersome adjustment period. They’re small, convenient for travel, and offer a noninvasive alternative to surgical procedures that remove tissues or enlarge air passages. This type of therapy may also be used in conjunction with CPAP or lifestyle modifications, because excess weight, smoking, and allergies are among the many risk factors associated with sleep apnea and snoring. Contact Nashua Cosmetic & Restorative Dentistry to find out if oral appliance therapy is right for you.