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Why You Should Talk to Your Dentist About Sleep Apnea

Dentists are able to help their patients with many different oral health concerns, including cavities, gum disease, and teeth extraction. Did you know that your dentist can also provide solutions for sleep breathing disorders (SBD)?

Defined by its repeated breaks in breathing while an individual sleeps, sleep apnea is considered a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder. This irregular breathing can cause an imbalance in carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the bloodstream, leading to a number of complications.

There are two types of sleep apnea to watch out for. The first is called central sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea happens when the brain fails to communicate with an individual’s breathing muscles. The other type is known as obstructive sleep apnea, which happens when air is unable to pass through the nose or mouth, despite attempts made by the body to continue breathing. This sleep disorder often causes severe morning headaches, insomnia, and sleepiness throughout the day.

There is also a condition called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). This is a disorder included with many others that encompass an umbrella of conditions characterized as a sleep-related breathing disorder. UARS was aimed at understanding what was not historically covered by Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS). Unlike OSA, there are no apneas in UARS. Instead, airway resistance is significant enough to cause short awakenings which disrupt the normal sleep pattern. A patient with UARS is usually not aware of the arousals, but still develop symptoms that affect their quality of life. One study found UARS or OSA present in up to 56% of children with ADHD. Studies show that symptoms of ADHD caused by UARS significantly improve or remit with treatment.

In general, individuals with OSA snore or create choking noises while they sleep. During these episodes, affected people may not wake completely. Because of this, many are unaware that they have a problem, leaving it undiagnosed.

While serious if left untreated, there are a number of options to treat sleep apnea. During your initial appointment with your dentist, they will examine your mouth and throat to get a better sense of what they are dealing with. This helps them determine what is causing the breathing issues, as well as determine a sensible solution. If necessary, your dentist may recommend an airway screening exam and with a home test first and if the situation is serious refer you to a physician who is familiar with sleep disorders and prescribe you to participate in a sleep study. This allows your dentist and physician to better understand your disorder since they look to see how many breathing episodes you have during the night.

Once your dentist can determine what is causing the issue and how serious your condition is, they are able to recommend a solution to manage your SBD. Initially, they may suggest that you cut down on things like smoking and alcohol consumption since these can exacerbate the issue. If these changes don’t help, your physician might try a sleeping mask. Also known as a CPAP device, these are worn during sleep and help the wearer keep their airways open.

Another less intrusive option is a dental device. These are used to encourage the lower jaw to sit more forward, preventing the tongue from obstructing the user’s main air passage. Dental devices are a good option for patients looking for an easy-to-wear alternative to surgery. If this helps then we know that increasing the oral volume for the tongue may be a way to actually cure this disease and not just manage it. There are few dentists and physicians that are aware of all the options out there so choosing the correct one can be daunting. Treatment options can range for a combination of orthodontics and minor surgery to full repositioning of both jaws.

Sleep apnea can cause a number of negative effects that lessen an individual’s quality of life. If you suspect that you may have this sleeping disorder, reach out to our Long Beach dental team today. We will help you figure out what is going on and the options for treatment so that you may return to your happy, healthy, well-rested self.

Give us a call to book an appointment at 562-434-6414 or send in a request here.

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