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Sleep Apnea

If you wake up as tired as when you went to bed, you may suffer from sleep apnea. Characterized by short lapses in breathing, sleep apnea affects an estimated 12 million Americans. Although sleep apnea can seem like just a mild annoyance, this condition has been linked with other health concerns high blood pressure, heart disease, memory problems, and daytime drowsiness.


Defining Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which the patient experiences shallow breathing or pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses can occur several times during sleep, leading to health complications and lifestyle hindrances.

 

Because sleep apnea can impact other areas of your life, it's important to take any symptoms seriously. If you suspect sleep apnea, talk to your dentist or physician about having a complete exam. Often, your doctor will recommend a sleep study to help confirm sleep apnea. Common symptoms of sleep apnea can include:

 

 

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  • Abnormal sleep patterns
  • Choking during sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times
  • Frequent pauses during sleep due to breaks in breathing
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Loud snoring
  • Sudden awakenings to restart breathing
  • Waking up in a sweat

 

The four types of sleep apnea are:
  • Obstructive sleep apnea - The most common form of this disorder, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when a patient's throat closes as the individual inhales during sleep and the patient can not suck air into their lungs. Since muscles relax during sleep, the soft tissue of the pharynx relaxes and expands, obstructing air flow in the upper respiratory tract. This obstruction reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood and forces the patient to wake up and take a deep breath. Men from age 30 to 50 are the main group affected by OSA. Often, people will experience mild OSA at some point in time in their lives; however, chronic or severe OSA requires medical attention.


  • Central sleep apnea - Central sleep apnea, or Cheyne-Stokes respiration, is a relatively rare form of sleep apnea that occurs when the region of the brain responsible for controlling the breathing muscles temporarily fails. Central sleep apnea differs from OSA in that the patient's pauses in breathing are due to a lack of effort to breathe.


  • Mixed apnea - Mixed apnea is a combination of OSA and central sleep apnea. Chronic OSA can sometimes cause central sleep apnea. Although the exact cause is still unknown, weight-related, cardiovascular, and respiratory conditions can contribute to mixed sleep apnea.


  • Complex sleep apnea - Complex sleep apnea is a form of mixed sleep apnea. With this unusual condition, a patient still experiences sleep apnea even when the physical obstruction to breathing is removed.



Factors that Influence Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused when soft tissue in the airway relaxes. Usually, OSA occurs because of changes in muscle tone, increase in the soft tissue due to obesity, and structure issues with the skull and face. Obese people are at a great risk for OSA because they carry more muscle and tissue mass. Over 50 percent of those who have Down's syndrome suffer from OSA, brought on by poor muscle tone, narrow nasopharynx, and a large tongue. Nasal congestion and alcohol consumption can also contribute to OSA. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the most common causes of obstructive sleep apnea in children. Obstructive sleep apnea can also occur as a part of the natural ageing process when the brain's capacity to transmit instructions telling the throat muscles to maintain rigidity decreases.


Central sleep apnea often accompanies a medical condition and is rarely found in healthy individuals. Since the brainstem controls breathing, any medical condition involving that part of the brain can cause central sleep apnea. Cardiovascular conditions, neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease, advanced arthritis, and encephalitis are some medical conditions that can trigger central sleep apnea.

The Importance of Treatment
Complications from sleep apnea can include inattentiveness at work, tiredness, risk of accidents, mood swings, high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction. Sleep apnea can also increase the risk of congestive heart failure and stroke. It can lead to difficulty in the treatment processes for conditions such as arterial fibrillation. Children affected by sleep apnea can be hyperactive, high strung, aggressive, and prone to bed wetting. They may have also unusual sleeping positions. Overall, a person suffering from sleep apnea experiences deterioration in the quality of life.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
To look for sleep apnea, a dentist or physician can recommend diagnostic testing, particularly if the patient is suffering from conditions such as high blood pressure, heart failure, and epilepsy. Physical examination for adults includes measuring for a wide neck, looking for enlarged tonsils, and assessing upper body obesity. In evaluating children, doctors check for enlarged adenoids and determine if the child has attention deficit issues.


Doctors use the patient's medical and sleep history in diagnosing sleep apnea. Symptoms such as drowsiness, headaches, heartburn, and patient medications can influence the diagnosis. A sleep study, where the patient is monitored in a sleep lab, can also help determine an individual has sleep apnea. When testing rules out sleep apnea, then the patient must be evaluated for other potential sleep disorders.

Treating Sleep Apnea
After a diagnosis of sleep apnea, your doctor will review treatment surgical and non-surgical options. Non-surgical treatments include medications, behavioral changes, dental appliances, and use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).
  • Medication - Nasal steroid sprays may effectively control sleep apnea caused by nasal airway obstruction. Hypothyroidism treatment helps manage sleep apnea caused by the thyroid condition.


  • Behavioral changes - In many cases, lifestyle and behavior changes are often the only treatment required to treat sleep apnea, particularly the milder cases. Exercising to reduce weight and avoiding sleep positions that lead to increased snoring have been shown as effective treatments.


  • Dental appliances - Mild to moderate sleep apnea can be controlled by using dental appliances that hold the palate up and keep the airway free. Any dental appliance should be custom fit by a dentist so that it works properly. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines use air pressure to ensure that the soft palate does not sag during sleep. The pressurized air is delivered to the patient through a face mask. As the person breathes, gentle air pressure keeps the air passage open and prevents sleep apnea.


Sleep Apnea
Snore Treatment

Snoring is a common condition mildly disturbing to others and distressing to the snorer. However, most people don't realize that snoring can be a serious health hazard. Heavy snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that is potentially dangerous and can be life threatening. Sleep apnea is often associated with hypertension, headaches, and even strokes. Your dentist can custom fit you with a dental appliance that will help control the snoring. This small plastic device fits in the mouth, and when worn at night prevents the collapse of throat tissues, eliminating the cause of the snoring.

 

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Teeth grinding or bruxism is a neuromuscular disorder that can damage and loosen the teeth. The severity of teeth grinding varies with the individual. Children usually outgrow the condition. Stress and abnormally aligned teeth are common causes of teeth grinding and treatment should focus on these factors. Night guards are effective devices to treat teeth grinding. Night guards are made of high-grade plastic. They are worn at night and they prevent the upper teeth from grinding against the lower teeth. Comfort and durability are important considerations when purchasing a night guard. Although ready made night guards are available at many stores, custom-fit night guards prepared by dentists obviously have a better fit.


Mouth Guard

Reasons For Grinding
The exact reason for grinding is still unknown but there are some factors that are associated with this problem such as:
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Drug abuse
  • Excess use of Caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Excess use of alcohol
  • Some prescription medication
  • Mal-Occlusion or miss-bite
  • And finally some disorders such as:
  • Parkinson’s disease


There is currently no cure for bruxing but it can be controlled. If you grind your teeth during the day or at night, your dentist will recommend a night guard to protect your teeth from these grinding forces. A night guard is a plastic cover that fits over your teeth to deflect the hard forces of chewing. Night guards will also increase the longevity of your dental work.

Night Guard Treatment
During the first visit your dentist will take an impression of your teeth. This impression is then sent to a dental laboratory where a custom-fit night guard is made.


On your second visit your dentist will show you how to place it into your mouth and will adjust it to your bite. There are different kinds of night guards from soft materials to harder plastic materials. Your dentist will recommend you the material best suited for you.

 

 

 

 

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