Sleep Apnea Treatment & Snoring
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. The term sleep apnea is derived from the Greek etymology meaning “without breath”. Breathing pauses can last anywhere from several seconds to minutes, and happens as often as 30 times or more per hour. Ongoing disrupted breathing causes an imbalance between the carbon dioxide and oxygen level in the bloodstream, as not enough carbon dioxide is exiting and not enough oxygen is entering the body.
Sensing this imbalance, the brain sends a message to the body, telling it to wake up to restart the breathing process. People with sleep apnea will partially awake as they struggle to breathe, and this is often accompanied by loud snoring or choking sensations. Because people with sleep apnea don’t always completely wake up during the episodes, they are often unaware they have a sleeping disorder and it can remain undiagnosed.
There are two main types of disorders: Central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send important signals to the breathing muscles. Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders on the planet. OSA happens when the airway begins to collapse and resists or completely blocks air from getting into the lungs. It is common for this to happen a few times each night, even in people who do not have OSA. It can happen anywhere from 5 to over 100 times per hour, and most of the time, the person has absolutely no idea that it is going on. When breathing stops, it wreaks havoc on the body. Oxygen levels in the blood stream will drop, heart rate will increase, specific hormones will be released and signals will be sent to the brain to increase breathing effort. A bed partner may hear gasping or choking sounds, but the person having the OSA is generally unaware. This type of apnea is far more prevalent and can easily be treated by the dentist.
Common sign of obstructive sleep apnea can include severe early morning headaches, sleepiness in the daytime, and insomnia. Fortunately, the dentist is equipped with the necessary technology and expertise to treat sleep apnea in several different ways.
SLEEP APNEA TREATMENT – IS IT REALLY NECESSARY?
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. 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 fighting of the blockage. The patient must arouse from deep sleep to tense the tongue and remove soft tissue from the airway.
Because sleep apnea causes carbon dioxide levels to skyrocket in the blood and oxygen levels to decrease, the heart has to pump harder and faster to compensate for the lack of oxygen. Sleep apnea patients can technically “die” many times each night. Sleep apnea has been linked to a variety of serious health conditions such as:
- high blood pressure
- erectile dysfunction
- heart failure
- excessive heartburn/ acid reflux
- excessive tiredness
All should be investigated by the dentist at the earliest opportunity.
Please call (310) 479-4500 or email us today to schedule your consultation, so that you can be on your way to the healthy sleep that you deserve as soon as possible. Dr. Larry Picard and his caring staff have experience in dealing with a myriad of dental issues and can help you to improve your smile.
WHAT DOES SLEEP APNEA TREATMENT INVOLVE?
In all cases where sleep apnea is suspected, the first action will be for the patient to inform their physician or dentist of their concern. The referral will be made by the medical doctor for the patient to have an overnight sleep study. This will determine if the diagnosis of sleep apnea is a reality. The sleep study specialist, respiratory physician, then will recommend initial treatment based upon the severity of the diagnosis. Often times a consultation with an ENT specialist and/or a dentist trained in the field of sleep medicine will be required. Just a few year ago, having a sleep study meant spending the night in a hospital or at an independent sleep lab, in a bed that is not your own, and being hooked up to dozens of sensors by a sleep technician who will monitor you all night long. Today the testing devices that we use are very simple and the studies can even take place in your own home.
The gold standard of treatment for many sleep apnea cases is the use of a “sleeping machine” that elicits positive airway pressure. This constitutes a silicone style mask that fits over the oral /nasal airway, operated through a machine (CPAP or BIPA) that applies room air under pressure. Many patients have difficulty tolerating this mode of treatment. Other treatment options may need to be considered due to a lack of compliance in order to treat the sleep apnea.
A comprehensive oral evaluation will be performed by Dr. Picard to go along with dental assessment of your recent diagnostic sleep study. A series of diagnostics will then be performed to determined what other treatment options will be possible. Often times, an alternative to a CPAP type apparatus will be a dental device, called an oral dilator appliance. This can be a suitable treatment plan for mild to moderate cases for sleep apnea. This appliance simply teases the lower jaw forward and is very effective in preventing the tongue from blocking the main air passage. The act of snoring will usually cease entirely with the use of these sleep apnea devices. Other treatment suggestions will be to halt habits that aggravate sleep apnea such as:
- poor diet
- alcohol composition
- the use of “sleeping pills”
Numerous ergonomics of the act of sleeping, such as one’s sleeping position and the number of pillows used, often need to be considered.
Additional, surgical treatment options though an ENT specialist or an oral surgeon might be required in more severe cases of sleep apnea.