Sleep apnea, a condition causing interrupted or shallow breathing during sleep, impacts nearly 50 million Americans. Untreated sleep apnea can signify a severe underlying issue or contribute to future health complications such as irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, or chronic heart failure. Excessive snoring, regular nighttime awakenings, and apparent daytime fatigue characterize this disorder.
Headaches upon waking
Noticed episodes of halted breathing during sleep
Sudden awakenings at night with choking or gasping
Waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most prevalent type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the throat muscles relax and momentarily collapse while sleeping, obstructing the airway and impeding breathing. These muscles support various parts of your mouth and throat, such as the uvula, tonsils, tongue, and soft palate. When they collapse, breathing becomes shallow and insufficient, and may even pause for 10 seconds to a minute. This causes a decrease in blood oxygen levels and an increase in carbon dioxide levels.
The reduced oxygen levels signal the brain to rouse you from sleep, which, in the case of OSA, is typically so brief that most individuals don’t remember it. This can happen repeatedly, from five to 30 times or more each hour, throughout the night, interrupting your sleep and preventing your brain from reaching the deep, restorative sleep stages.
As sleep disorders often involve abnormalities in the throat, mouth, and nose, dentists are frequently the first healthcare professionals to detect signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. Many dentists have the training to recognize, treat, and manage conditions such as snoring and sleep apnea during regular check-ups. A misaligned jaw, throat redness, a tongue with scalloped edges, and evidence of teeth grinding may all suggest that you could be dealing with a sleep disorder.
While many dentists have the qualifications to treat sleep disorders like OSA, not all do. Only dentists with specialized training in dental sleep treatments should provide oral appliances. These professionals possess the additional expertise needed to accurately assess your condition, prescribe the right treatment, and monitor it effectively.
Although your dentist can identify warning signs and oversee treatment, only a certified sleep specialist can confirm if you have a sleep disorder. You will undergo a comprehensive sleep evaluation, which may include an overnight study or at-home sleep test, to gather the necessary information for diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
Most people associate sleep apnea treatment with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which uses pressurized air to maintain an open airway. However, not all sleep apnea cases require this. Since OSA is related to the jaw and/or tongue position during sleep, it can often be managed with a custom-fitted oral appliance worn at night. Similar to an athletic mouthguard or orthodontic retainer, these sleep apnea appliances help position the lower jaw correctly. By slightly moving the jaw forward and preventing the collapse of the tongue and upper airway muscles, the airways remain open, allowing for better breathing during sleep.
The comprehensive team of trained professionals at Dental Depot includes dentists certified in Obstructive Sleep Airway (OSA) identification. These experts can not only detect the signs and symptoms of sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, but also prescribe and monitor the necessary treatment in many cases.
Our dental professionals prioritize the oral health and safety of your entire family, making it convenient to access the quality care you deserve. All our locations offer flexible scheduling and Saturday appointments, while our fully staffed offices allow you to book appointments for everyone at once. Moreover, we take pride in offering a wide range of oral health services, from routine cleanings and exams to orthodontics and oral surgery.
Don’t delay better sleep or improved health. Proper sleep is crucial for overall well-being, and oral appliance therapy is covered by numerous insurance plans. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have sleep apnea, contact any of our Dental Depot offices to schedule an initial exam and consultation.