All About Sleep Apnea

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Are you waking up feeling tired, despite making your best effort to get enough hours of sleep? Are you unable to sleep through the night without getting up for some reason? Have you been told that you have made gasping noises in your sleep, or that you snore loudly? If you answered “yes” to these questions, there is a chance you could be suffering from sleep apnea.

Most people are initially evaluated for some form of SDB (Sleep Disturbed Breathing) by their dentist, especially since people tend to see their dentist more frequently than their physician. A dentist who has been trained to be on the lookout for SDB can evaluate you for the signs of Sleep Apnea by looking at your teeth and oral cavity. If your dentist has any concerns, they can recommend for you to be seen by your doctor. Ultimately only a physician can make the official diagnosis.

What is OSA? (Obstructive Sleep Apnea)

OSA refers to an obstruction or blockage that makes it more difficult for air to enter the lungs. This causes the body to be deprived of oxygen, which is transported in the blood to all organs in the body.

The most common case of OSA involves an obstruction by the base of the tongue. When you are lying down, the tongue can drop to the back of the oral cavity and can block air from getting to the lungs.

Signs of Sleep Apnea

• Snoring
• Gasping during sleep as you try to take a breath
• Total stoppage of breathing (Apnea)
• Restless leg and arm syndrome
• Excessive sweating
• Increased frequency of urination
• GERD (Acid Reflux, bitter taste in the mouth in the morning, sore throat)
• Grinding your teeth
• Not feeling rested upon waking

Related Consequences of Sleep Apnea

• Daytime fatigue
• Tiredness
• Poor mental performance and poor judgment
• Risk of high blood pressure
• Coronary heart disease
• Stroke
• Heart failure

Treatment
There are many ways to treat OSA and SDB, depending on the patient’s situation. Treatments range from a simple MAS (Mandibular Advancement Splint), which moves the lower jaw forward and opens the airway, a CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure), which forces oxygen into the lungs, or a surgical procedure to remove different tissues that may be causing the obstruction.

If you think you or someone you know might exhibit some of these signs and symptoms, talk to your dentist so they can collaborate with you and your doctor on the best treatment options.

Article adapted from “Facts about sleep apnea” written by Edward A. Glover, IV, DDS

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