Conservative Treatment for Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is gaining tremendous attention as an acute public health concern. A study by the Institute of Medicine reports that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from disorders of sleep and wakefulness. The long-term effects of sleep loss and disorders have been associated with increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, dementia, GERD, heart attack and stroke.
One in five car accidents are associated with driver sleepiness. The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine notes that over 18 million Americans have OSA. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. The term sleep apnea literally means “without breath”. Breathing pauses can last anywhere from several seconds to minutes, and happen as often as 30 times or more per hour.
People with sleep apnea will partially awake as they struggle to breathe, and this is often accompanied by loud snoring or choking sensations. Because they don’t always completely awake during the episodes, some are often unaware they have a sleeping disorder and it can remain undiagnosed.
There are two main types of this disorder; Central Sleep Apnea which occurs when the brain fails to send important signals to the breathing muscles, and Obstructive Sleep Apnea which occurs when air cannot flow through the nose or mouth even though the body is still trying to breathe. Obstructive sleep apnea is far more prevalent and easily treatable by a properly trained dentist.
Signs and Symptoms
Some common signs include: feeling tired even after a full night of sleep, experiencing consistent headaches in the morning, snoring loudly and frequently, making choking or snorting sounds during sleep, stopping breathing during sleep, depression or irritability, having a family member who has sleep apnea, unexplained weight gain or trouble losing weight, high blood pressure, falling asleep while driving or during periods of daytime inactivity, neck size of greater than 17inches in men or greater than 16 inches in women, (BMI) of higher than 30 in men or higher than 26 in women, menopausal or premenopausal women, or a woman with hypothyroidism or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
Reason for Treating Sleep Apnea
It is very important to seek medical attention if sleep apnea is suspected. A sufferer can completely stop breathing numerous times per hour, and this can quickly turn into a deadly situation. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissue lying at the back of the patient’s throat collapses into the airway. The tongue then falls into the back of the throat which tightens the blockage and prevents oxygen from entering the lungs.
The problem worsens when the chest region, diaphragm, and abdomen fight for air. The efforts they make to obtain vital oxygen only cause a further tightening of the blockage. The patient must arouse from deep sleep to tense the tongue and remove the soft tissue from the airway.
Because sleep apnea causes carbon dioxide levels to skyrocket in the blood and oxygen levels to decrease, the heart must pump harder and faster to compensate for the lack of oxygen.
What Does Sleep Apnea Treatment Involve?
Initially, Dr. Sohl will want to conduct tests to investigate, and pinpoint a suitable treatment. He can offer many different treatment options which may depend largely on the exact diagnosis and the health history of the patient. Dr. Sohl may advise the patient to halt some habits that aggravate sleep apnea such as smoking, alcohol consumption before bed, and tranquilizer use.
Due to patient compliance issues that can limit the effectiveness of CPAP therapy, mandibular advancement devices (MADs) are playing an increasingly important role in the treatment of OSA.
Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) has come to the forefront as an extremely effective, scientifically tested treatment option for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued a statement declaring that Oral Appliance Therapy is an excellent treatment option for those suffering from Mild to Moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea and is proving to be very effective in Severe cases as well. The oral appliance works by holding the lower jaw in a position that allows the airway to remain as open and firm as possible during sleep.
For more information on Obstructive Sleep Apnea, please feel free to contact our office today to schedule your complimentary screening and consultation!