CPAP device

Accident Prone? Could Be Your Sleep

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Are you accident prone? Some people just seem to trip, run into walls, bang their legs on the desk corner and get fingers stuck in drawers more often than the rest of us. The reason you might be accident prone could be the quality of your sleep!

A recent study from Canada found that patients with poor sleep quality due to sleep apnea were three times more likely to suffer injuries that were potentially related to tiredness. “Study author Dr. Najib T. Ayas stated “People with sleep apnea have decreased cognitive function, vigilance, attention, and motor function. And we know from previous studies that individuals with untreated sleep apnea are at increased risk of motor vehicle crashes.”

The research looked at a group of patients who were evaluated at the University of British Columbia Hospital Sleep Disorder Laboratory to be evaluated for sleep apnea. The researchers compared injury claims of those who were diagnosed with sleep apnea versus those of patients who were note diagnosed with the condition.

It is estimated that up to 25% of adults between 30 and 70 may be affected by sleep apnea which causes stoppages of breathing during sleep. The vast majority of these patients have no idea that they have a sleep breathing disorder — they just know that they wake up feeling unrefreshed and experience excessive daytime sleepiness. Signs of sleep apnea include loud snoring, gasping during sleep, large neck size, weight gain and increase in blood pressure. Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, headache, depression, erectile dysfunction and increased risk of accident.

CPAP is usually the first treatment suggested for sleep apnea but most patients have difficulty sleeping with the masks and hoses. Using an oral appliance to treat sleep apnea has been proven highly effective and the majority of patients find the oral appliance comfortable and easy to use. Only a physician can diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, and only a dentist can create a custom oral appliance to treat the disorder.

Find out if you are a candidate for oral appliance therapy for sleep apnea by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777 to schedule your next visit.

Your Brain and Sleep Apnea

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Sleep apnea extracts a heavy toll on many body systems including the brain. Patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea report poor memory, difficulty making decisions, depression, stress and poor concentration.

New research from the UCLA School of Nursing showed that people with sleep apnea show changes in the levels of two brain chemicals which may hold the key to these symptoms. The researchers looked at the levels of glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in an area of the brain called the insula. This area regulates emotion, thinking and physical functions such as blood pressure and sweating.

Patients with sleep apnea showed decreased levels of GABA and high levels of glutamate. GABA affects mood and helps make endorphins, feel good chemicals, which help keep people calm. Glutamate acts in an opposite manner. High glutamate levels mean the brain is in a state of stress and doesn’t function as effectively. High levels can be toxic to nerves and neurons.

Researchers were surprised to see the drop in GABA but say the study results are encouraging. “In contrast with damage, if something is working differently, we can potentially fix it,” said Paul Macey, lead researcher. Future studies are planned to see if treating sleep apnea can return these brain chemicals to their normal levels.

An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea and about 80% of patients with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea remain undiagnosed. If you experience loud snoring, weight gain, excessive daytime sleepiness, or have a large neck size or have been told you gasp or stop breathing while sleeping you may have obstructive sleep apnea.

Treatment is as simple as wearing a custom oral device that gently places the jaw in forward position which keeps the airway open at night. No masks, no tubes and no machine are necessary. Find out more about treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777.

When Snoring Endangers Your Health

Friday, January 29th, 2016

If you snore you aren’t alone – about 90 million Americans snore while they sleep. Many of these people are “primary snorers” meaning they are really obnoxious to share a bedroom with. For a large number of other snorers all the noise means that they have a serious sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) which means they stop breathing during sleep. The two problems are usually lumped together which is a mistake — frequent loud snoring does not always indicate OSA, but having obstructive sleep apnea almost always means frequent loud snoring.

How can you tell if your snoring is dangerous? The only sure way to test for obstructive sleep apnea is to undergo an overnight sleep study. Sleep studies are typically done overnight in a sleep lab, but home sleep tests are becoming more widely available. During a sleep study you will be monitored for breathing, oxygen levels, movement, snoring and stoppages of breathing. A physician who is trained in sleep medicine will interpret the results of the study and provide a diagnosis. Obstructive sleep apnea is diagnosed based upon how many times each hour the patient stops breathing during sleep for at least 10 seconds. Most of these pauses last between 10-30 seconds but some can last  a minute or more.

Obstructive sleep apnea causes people to stop breathing because the airway becomes obstructed, or blocked. The blockage is commonly caused by the tongue and soft tissues of the mouth and throat relaxing during sleep and falling back into the airway. A partial blockage of the airway causes snoring and when the airway is completely blocked breathing stops — until the brain realizes the body is low on oxygen and briefly wakens the sleeper with a gasp to begin breathing again. Meanwhile, while breathing is stopped the body is frantically trying to move oxygen throughout the body leading to increased blood pressure and heart rate.

The most common treatment offered for obstructive sleep apnea is CPAP. A CPAP machine is a small machine that provides a steady stream of pressurized air into the throat via a mask worn while sleeping. This is a highly effective treatment but unfortunately, over half of patients prescribed CPAP simply can’t tolerate using the machine or sleeping with the masks and hoses.

A terrific option for patients who don’t want CPAP or can’t tolerate it is an oral appliance. Oral appliances to treat obstructive sleep apnea are highly effective and have been studied and approved by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. An oral appliance to treat sleep apnea is usually covered by medical insurance and must be made by a licensed dentist. There are appliances designed to treat simple snoring that are available over the internet but for a patient with obstructive sleep apnea these will not alleviate the stoppages of breathing and the health dangers associated with the disorder. Your sleep dentist will work with you to choose the appropriate oral appliance and ensure that proper adjustments are made over time to provide the optimal treatment.

Find out more about your options for treating OSA by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777 to schedule a consultation.


Drowsy Driving and Your Dentist

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Drowsy driving is a serious public health issue and driving without adequate sleep can compromise your judgement and reflexes as much as driving under the influence. Reaction times are delayed, decision making skills are reduced and it is almost impossible to remain alert and attentive to the road when your eyes desperately want to close. The American Association of Sleep Medicine is stepping up their efforts to make these facts known.

It is estimated that drowsy driving causes about 328,000 crashes, including 6,400 fatalities, each year. One big reason for sleepiness behind the wheel are sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep breathing disorder that causes people to stop breathing during sleep. This happens many, many times each night depending upon the severity of the case.

Why is your dentist talking about drowsy driving and obstructive sleep apnea? Because a dentist who has been trained in dental sleep medicine can offer a highly effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea that avoids the masks, hoses and machines associated with CPAP therapy. An oral appliance is  able to keep the airway open throughout the night, treating obstructive sleep apnea in a comfortable and unobtrusive manner.

How do you know you have sleep apnea? If you have been told you snore loudly, gasp during sleep, feel sleepy throughout the day, have experienced weight gain, increased blood pressure and wake feeling unrefreshed following sleep you may have obstructive sleep apnea. The first step is getting a proper diagnosis and then deciding on treatment.

Please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 406-391-8777 to schedule your sleep apnea consultation today. Drowsy driving is dangerous, but getting a healthy night of sleep can keep your eyes on the road.

Is Snoring Dangerous?

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

When you talk about snoring people usually start laughing — snoring has been the butt of jokes since before the days of the Three Stooges. Snoring really isn’t a laughing matter — not for the person who snores and definitely not for their long suffering bed partner.

Snoring happens when the soft tissues of the mouth and throat relax during sleep and partially block the airway. Breathing in and out makes these tissues flutter and gives us the awful snoring sound. People who sleep with people who snore know the drill – lots of elbows to get the snorer to roll over or else grabbing a pillow and heading to the couch.

While annoying, this hardly sounds dangerous — but heavy snoring has been shown to heavy significantly increase the risk of carotid atherosclerosis by causing irritation to the carotid artery. Heavy snoring is also a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a serious sleep breathing disorder that causes people to stop breathing during sleep. These pauses in breath place great stress on the body and, left untreated, can lead to heart attack, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction and even early death.

Overnight sleep studies are used to diagnose these sleep disorders. These are conducted in a sleep lab, although home tests are becoming more common. During the sleep test the patient is hooked to sensors that track breathing, sleep levels, movement, heart rate and more. All of the data is then reviewed by a sleep physician who can give a diagnosis.

Why is a dentist writing about snoring and sleep apnea? Because dentists who have received training in dental sleep medicine are the perfect choice to solve the problem of snoring and stoppages of breath during sleep.

Using an oral appliance, called a mandibular advancement device, your sleep apnea dentist can place your jaw in a position that stops the snoring! This same device keeps patients with sleep apnea breathing throughout the night without using a CPAP.

Find out more about getting a quiet, restful night of sleep (without the couch) by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777.

Sleep Disorders - Get Diagnosed and Get Treated For Better Health

Monday, August 24th, 2015

More and more, we are learning the effects that poor sleep or lack of sleep have on our health and well being. More than 50 million Americans have some form of sleep disorder and most have not been diagnosed. Why is this important? A report on Morning Edition discusses the problems and offers solutions.

Not getting proper restorative sleep has been linked to heard disease, diabetes, increased risk of accident and perhaps Alzheimer’s disease. Not only does poor sleep make you feel exhausted and foggy during the day, it can set you up for serious, long term health problems.

Usually people seek help for sleep problems because someone complains about their snoring, or because they feel extremely tired and sleepy throughout the day. The first step is to seek a diagnosis by having a sleep study. Sleep studies can be done in a sleep lab or, a more common choice for many, using a home sleep test. Once the sleep test has been completed, the results are read by a sleep physician and a diagnosis is made.

One common sleep disorder is called obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea causes the sleeper to stop breathing during sleep.  Breathing stops because the airway becomes blocked by the tongue or other soft tissues of the mouth and neck. A partial blockage is what causes snoring. A complete blockage means that no oxygen is getting into the body — the brain will sense that oxygen levels are falling and briefly waken the sleeper, who gasps and begins breathing again — until the airway becomes blocked again. This can happen a few times each hour for milder cases or hundreds of times per night for more serious cases.

Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea used to mean one thing – a CPAP machine. While CPAP is a wonderful way of managing obstructive sleep apnea, about half of patients cannot tolerate the masks, tubing and noise from the machine. Many people simply abandon treatment and ignore their apnea symptoms.

Today we have another highly effective treatment option – an oral appliance! Oral appliances are small devices that look similar to an orthodontic retainer. These devices gently place the jaw in a forward position that naturally keeps the airway open during sleep. Snoring and sleep apnea can be successfully managed without masks, tubes and electricity!

Find out more about obstructive sleep apnea and whether you are a candidate for treatment using an oral appliance by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777.


Oral Device May Help Blood Pressure in Sleep Apnea Patients

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea often develop or have worsening blood pressure as a result. Research findings presented at the 24th annual meeting of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine in Seattle this week suggest oral appliances may address this problem.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which patients stop breathing during sleep because the airway has become blocked. As we sleep, the tongue and other tissues in the mouth and throat relax and can drop back into the airway. A partial blockage leads to snoring and a complete blockage causes the patient to stop breathing. Once the brain realizes that oxygen levels in the brain have dropped, the sleeper will gasp, briefly waken and begin breathing again. This leave the sleeper with fragmented sleep and often feeling extreme daytime fatigue and sleepiness. Obstructive sleep apnea also places great stress on the heart and circulatory system. The first line of treatment is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) which many people find difficult or impossible to tolerate.

Researchers presented finding that evaluated the benefits of oral appliances on blood pressure in patients who are not CPAP compliant. Researchers looked at 222 patients, of which 26 percent had high blood pressure. Compared to patients without high blood pressure, oral appliances significantly lowered the systolic and diastolic blood pressure of the OSA patients. Blood pressure was normalized in 59% of the patients.

If you have been told that you snore loudly or have been told that you gasp or choke during sleep you  may be experiencing obstructive sleep apnea. Find out more about getting a diagnosis and treatment by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 800-884-9439.

Depression and Sleep Apnea Linked

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

New research from Australia suggests that men who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are also at higher risk for depression.

Carol Lang, a research fellow at the University of Adelaide found that men with undiagnosed, severe obstructive sleep apnea had more than double the risk of depression compared to men who did not have sleep apnea. Men who had both undiagnosed severe sleep apnea and excessive daytime sleepiness (a key symptom of sleep apnea), had even higher risks for depression – up to five times that of a man without sleep apnea.

“Many of the symptoms of OSA and depression overlap, such as tiredness, fatigue, daytime sleepiness, low vitality and poor concentration” said Lang, adding that she can’t explain why the conditions seem to be linked. She stated that the nature of the study that was completed prevented drawing those conclusions. The study looked at about 860 men ranging in age from 35 to 83. The study period was for five years and the men were evaluated twice for depression and they underwent sleep studies to test for obstructive sleep apnea. Severe obstructive sleep apnea is defined as stopping breathing for 10 seconds or longer, more than 30 times per hour during sleep. The same team that performed this research is now preparing a similar study looking at women. Since women experioence more depression than men, and women with OSA have been shown to experience more severe depression symptoms this study should be enlightening.

If you experience excessive daytime sleepiness, if you have been told you snore or that you stop breathing during sleep you may have obstructive sleep apnea. Most patients are  prescribed CPAP once they have been diagnosed but, unfortunately, about half of patients cannot tolerate sleeping with the CPAP machine and mask.

A great alternative is an oral appliance created by a dentist who has received training in dental sleep medicine. An oral appliance is simple to use and most patients find them extremely comfortable.

Find out more about oral appliance therapy for obstructive sleep apnea and snoring by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777 to schedule your consultation.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea - How Your Dentist Can Help

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious medical condition which causes people to stop breathing during sleep. Why would your dentist talk to you about obstructive sleep apnea? We have several really good reasons!

When we are sleeping our muscles relax, this includes the tissues in the mouth and throat – including the tongue. In obstructive sleep apnea patients the tissue relaxes and drops back into the throat, blocking the airway. When the airway is partially blocked we hear snoring but when the airway becomes totally blocked no air can pass. The patient stops breathing and then, when the brain realizes it needs oxygen, the sleeper briefly wakes with a gasp and begins breathing again. This can happen a few times each hour or many, many times. 

A dentist cannot diagnose obstructive sleep apnea but we can screen for the signs and offer an effective treatment for management of the condition. Signs that your dentist will look for include:

  • Large neck size
  • Scalloped edges of the tongue
  • Large uvula
  • Small airway
  • Reported snoring or gasping during sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • High blood pressue

Some patients wonder why we would talk to them about a medical condition that doesn’t include the teeth. Your dentist and your dental hygienist are the healthcare professionals that spend the most time looking at your open mouth. We look at the size of the airway, the size of the uvula and at the condition of the tongue. If we see something that leads us to think that obstructive sleep apnea might be a possibility you will be directed to do a sleep study in order to receive a diagnosis. Many people say they don’t want to do a sleep study because they are afraid of being told they must wear a CPAP mask during sleep. While CPAP is a wonderful treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, there are other alternatives, including an oral appliance.

Oral appliances to treat sleep apnea are medical devices that are covered through your medical insurance policy in many cases. These devices can only be created by a licensed dentist and are designed to gently hold your lower jaw in a position that keeps the airway open during sleep. Our patients find them very comfortable to use and highly effective. Because they don’t require electricity like a CPAP they are perfect for frequent travelers or campers.

Find out more about oral appliance therapy to treat your obstructive sleep apnea by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777.

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person’s breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. In the most severe cases, a person will stop breathing hundreds of times in a night, sometimes for a minute or longer.

There are three types of sleep apnea, each of which has a different cause. The most common is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is caused by an obstruction in the airway during sleep. Central sleep apnea occurs when the airway is open, but the brain does not signal the muscles to breathe. The third type, mixed sleep apnea, is a combination of the two.

While this condition is very common, it can have serious consequences if it goes untreated, including car accidents due to sleep deprivation, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and cognitive disorders. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and there are a number of effective treatment options available.

  1. CPAP Machine: A continuous positive air pressure machine (also known as a CPAP machine or device) is the most common form of sleep apnea treatment. The device uses a tube and mask to cover the nose, which generates air pressure to keep the airway open during sleep.
  2. Surgery: Surgical intervention can also be successful in treating certain cases of sleep apnea. During the procedure, the surgeon repositions the structure of the mouth and facial bones, thus eliminating the tissue in the throat that collapses and blocks the airway during sleep.
  3. Oral Appliances: In moderate sleep apnea cases, a dentist with special training in appliance therapy can recommend an oral appliance to fit the specific needs of the patient. There are more than 80 oral appliances on the market, which treat a range of symptoms, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. These devices are similar to a retainer, and fit around the teeth to reposition the tongue or jaw.

Sleep Apnea Treatment in Toccoa

If you’re ready to learn more about treatment options for sleep apnea, contact Wilbanks Smile Center today and schedule a consultation.  Our offices are located in Toccoa, GA, and we can be reached at 706-886-9439.  We look forward to serving you.

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