What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is caused by breathing problems during sleep. Sleep apnea occurs when breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. Due to its nature and effect on body’s oxygen intake it can lead to serious medical problem and complications.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
You might not know that you have symptoms, such as loud snoring, that indicate sleep apnea. However, there are other symptoms that you can detect. Signs of sleep apnea include:
- Waking up suddenly with shortness of breath, which occurs when your breathing stops
- Waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth
- Having headaches in the morning from poor sleep
- Feeling sleepy during the day
- Difficulty paying attention while awake (e.g. when driving or watching TV)
- Having trouble staying asleep at night (fragmented sleep)
- Mood swings and feeling irritated
- Learning difficulties and focus problems
Sleep Apnea in Children
Sleep apnea can start early in life, if your child has small arches or lower jaw is behind the top jaw in terms of growth, need to seek the help of a dental professional who is familiar with the growth and development in relation to breathing disorder. Small arches can be widened, the lower jaw can be encouraged to grow normally with the use of dental appliances.
Tonsils and adenoids should be evaluated for possible removal.
In a crowded mouth, expansion should be encouraged to create room for permanent teeth and not planned for extraction of permanent teeth, by extraction the arches become narrower, therefore, increases the risk of sleep apnea. Ankylosed or tongue-tie leads to sleep apnea at later stages in life.
Sleep Apnea Causes
Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat become too relaxed while you sleep. That makes it possible for soft tissue in the area to fall or collapse, which blocks your airway.
These airway blockages cause you to snore and wake up suddenly as your breathing stops, which can happen frequently during the night.
You have a higher risk of having sleep apnea if you:
- Are overweight
- Have a family history of sleep apnea
- Are a smoker
- Have a narrow airway
In Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), muscles that support the soft palate(uvula), the tonsils, the sidewalls of the throat (adenoid tissue) and the tongue relaxes and collapses the airway.
As your airway collapses, you can't get oxygen into your blood. Your brain then wakes you from sleep so that your airways open up. You might snore or gasp. This pattern can repeat itself five to 30 times or more each hour, all night, causing fragmented sleep.
Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain fails to transmit signals to your breathing muscles, you may not breathe for a short period, shortness of breath or have a difficult time getting to sleep or staying asleep
Types of Sleep Apnea
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common form that occurs when the airway is narrowed or blocked by the relaxed throat muscles, therefore oxygen cannot get to the brain.
- Central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain fails to control the breathing usually as a result of medical problems such as heart failure
- Combination of Obstructive and central sleep apnea, which occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
Depending on the findings from your sleep test, treatment option ranges from CPAP machine to dental oral devices, weight loss regiment, surgery.
For AHI over 30, CPAP is the treatment of choice, CPAP is Continuous Positive Air Pressure with the use of a mask.
For mild to moderate sleep apnea, dental appliances can be used, which are less cumbersome than CPAP machines.
Many different types of dental appliances are available, custom-fitted vs over the counter. Custom fitted with digital scan/impression taken will be the most comfortable and can be titrated the best.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
Diagnosis of Obstructive sleep apnea is based on the measurement of apnea/hypopnea index or AHI index. AHI measures the number of pauses in breathing per hour while you sleep. The severity of sleep apnea is based on the AHI score, minimal<5, mild between 5 and 15, moderate between 15 and 30, severe greater than 30. Sleep apnea test, which uses equipment to monitor your breathing and oxygen levels while you sleep. Traditionally, sleep tests had to be done in a sleep center, however, with the advancement in technology, most sleep tests can now be done at home.
If Dr. Wu notices any signs of sleep apnea while examining your mouth, she might recommend seeing a sleep specialist for a more detailed sleep study. A sleep doctor can diagnose sleep disorders including sleep apnea based on your symptoms and observance of your sleep habits.
If you do have sleep apnea, you’ll need to go over your treatment options which starts with a visit with Dr. Wu.
Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?
Sleep apnea can affect your judgment due to poor sleep quality. That can make it more dangerous for you to drive, and it can affect your performance at work or school.
Sleep apnea can also increase your risk of having severe health issues when it’s left untreated. Some of the more severe complications for sleep apnea include:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
How do dentists treat sleep apnea?
Dr. Wu might have you wear an oral appliance that resembles a night mouthguard to keep your airway open and unobstructed while you’re sleeping. Wearing such an appliance is your best non-invasive option for easing symptoms of sleep apnea and lower your risk of health problems.
If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, please contact Issaquah Premier Dental in Issaquah, Washington, to schedule an appointment with Dr. Wu.
Testimonials from Patients
Dr Wu is wonderful. She developed a comprehensive plan for me that addressed my overall bite issues, rather than waiting for me to just crack all my teeth, one by one. Additionally, Dr Wu and her staff are all very welcoming, empathetic, and supportive. Update 4/20: The results from Dr. Wu’s plans have by far exceeded any of our expectations! Not only have my bite issues improved, but my sleep is so much better! I feel like I sleep much deeper, and wake(…)
I have been a practicing dental hygienist for 32 years. I don’t need a ton of dentistry but knew there were a couple of issues I needed to address. Working in periodontics for years I am very selective as to who is going to take care of my dental needs. From the very first telephone conversation up and to my exam I could not be more thrilled with my dental experience. I found Dr. Wu to not only be very comprehensive with a caring bed side manner but also to(…)
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