Sleep apnea is a condition where an individual stops breathing multiple times per hour throughout the night. In mild cases, the patient may be interrupted by extremely shallow or halted breathing 20 to 25 times per hour. Extreme cases can result in hundreds of times.
The patient may not even realize they are experiencing these interruptions until such extreme fatigue occurs, they are forced to investigate why.
In addition to fatigue, signs may be more noticeable for a partner. Loud snoring with bursts of snorting or coughing may be an indicator. Patients that feel they are dealing with issues that are interrupting their sleep patterns might want to begin their search for answers with their dentist before considering a sleep study.
One of the main reasons sleep apnea occurs is when the patient falls asleep the muscles in the mouth and throat relax. This can allow tissues or the tongue to move in such a way, the airway is blocked. The result is the patient actually stops breathing. The body sends a message to the brain, and the patient responds by reflex. Although perhaps not consciously awakened, sleep is interrupted.
It is unknown why this occurs, but your chances increase if you are an older male with large tonsils, a larger neck, carry excess weight, have relatives with this condition or suffer from acid reflux.
A possible solution is a specially designed device that resembles a mouth guard that is fabricated to hold the tongue and jaw in a position that will prevent the soft tissues from relaxing and blocking the airway.
There are other devices as well such as CPAP and nose pieces, but these external methods are bulky and uncomfortable. Many patients report that they are awakened as often during the night due to their discomfort as they were dealing with their sleep apnea.
Although wearing a mouthpiece to bed takes a little adjusting, the success rate with treating sleep apnea with this type of appliance is much higher than with most other solutions. It is much more convenient, travels well, and is much less intrusive.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition with potentially dire results to health and overall quality of life. Our dental team at Richardson Dentistry can provide answers and allow you to enjoy uninterrupted slumber once again.