Nothing is as important as a good nights sleep. Sleep should be restorative, refueling our bodies for the next day. Millions of people are affected by sleeping disorders including sleep apnea, where a person involuntarily stops breathing while they are sleeping. Often times, a person doesn’t know they have sleep apnea because they aren’t fully awakened. Sleep apnea not only disrupts the affected person’s sleep, but can disrupt the sleep of family members due to characteristically loud snoring.
Sleep apnea is caused by a number of reasons. Obstructive sleep apnea is when the airway is blocked, most often by the soft tissue at the back of the mouth. The soft tissue collapses and closes the airway. Another type, central sleep apnea, is when the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. A third type, mixed sleep apnea, is a combination of the two. With each type of sleep apnea, the brain wakes the sleeper, usually only partially, to signal breathing to resume. Because of this, sleep is very disruptive and of poor quality.
SCM Dental treats patients who have obstructive sleep apnea. Our sleep apnea therapy includes a removable oral appliance worn during sleep to reposition the jaw and keep the airway open during sleep. The oral appliance is like a sports mouth guard and highly effective for treating sleep apnea and snoring in certain patients. The appliance works by repositioning the lower jaw slightly forward of its normal position. This minor adjustment effectively keeps the airway open.
Using an oral appliance for sleep apnea therapy should be used in combination with other types of sleep apnea therapy including weight loss, if recommended, and positional therapy. Seventy percent of patients affected by obstructive sleep apnea are overweight or obese. Studies show that weight loss is an effective therapy for sleep apnea in some patients. Positional therapy is where the sleeper changes the position of their sleep. Most people find that sleeping on their back worsens sleep apnea and snoring. Making a simple change to side sleeping may be an effective way to treat sleep apnea.
Because you aren’t fully awakened, you may not know if you have sleep apnea. Some common signs are:
- Loud snoring
- Awakening during the night feeling out of breath or gasping for air
- Persistent daytime sleepiness
- Waking with dry mouth
- Frequent headaches upon wakening
Sleep apnea can only be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional with experience in sleep apnea disorders and therapy. If you think you have sleep apnea, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.