Dental Sleep Medicine

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.

Don't Fear the Dentist: The Benefits of Sedation Dentistry

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Does the thought of going to the dentist or needing to have dental work done make you feel anxious, distressed or scared?

Dental procedures shouldn’t be something to be and feared and avoided – regular check ups, cleanings, routine and restorative procedures are a vital part of taking care of your health and preserving your smile. Don’t neglect your dental health because of fear of getting into the dentist’s chair!

To ease your worries and discomfort regarding visiting the dentist, let’s look into sedation dentistry and how it can improve your experience. Although sedation dentistry is sometimes referred to as sleep dentistry, most patients are usually remain awake throughout the procedure.

Sedation dentistry implements the use of medication to provide a relaxing and anxiety-free experience for people who are undergoing dental treatment. It can be used on patients of all ages – including young children over a certain age, so consult with your child’s pediatrician and dentist regarding whether sedation dentistry is right for them.

Other benefits of sedation dentistry include:

  1. It accommodates a low pain threshold or sensitive teeth
    For those with the often painful and bothersome condition of having sensitive teeth, undergoing dental work can be especially unpleasant. Sedation dentistry makes the process significantly more comfortable for these patients.
  2. It’s great for those who can’t sit still in the dentist’s chair
    For younger patients of those who usually get antsy or impatient while undergoing a prolonged dental procedure, sedation therapy allows them to feel settled and calm during complex and lengthy procedures.
  3. It helps those who have a bad gag reflex feel more comfortable
    For many people, having any type of dental work done in their mouths makes them feel uncomfortable and triggers their gag reflex. Knowing that sedation dentistry helps to repress this makes it easier for some patients to undergo elective procedures that they may have otherwise been apprehensive about.
  4. It’s perfect for patients who need substantial dental work done
    As a result of the soothing and sleepy experience that sedation dentistry provides, patients feel as though time flies by during their treatment, so their lengthy procedures seem to last for only a few minutes.

Sedation Dentistry in Toccoa

If you would like to learn more about sedation dentistry or any of the dental treatments that the Wilbanks Smile Center offers, contact us today and schedule your consultation. Our offices are located in Toccoa, GA, and we can be contacted at 706-886-9439. We look forward to hearing from you.

World Sleep Day March 14

Friday, March 14th, 2014

March 14 is World Sleep Day and the theme for this year includes breathing during sleep and the need for restful sleep, which can only be achieved by having a healthy body.

There are many reasons why a good night’s sleep is important. Researchers have discovered that poor quality or lack of sleep can lead to memory problems as we age and even affect the genes that allow our bodies to heal themselves. One of the most common reasons for poor sleep is the sleep breathing disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. This is where the “breathing” portion of the World Sleep Day comes into play.

Obstructive sleep apnea causes stoppages in breathing during sleep. For some people, this can occur hundreds of times each night, but they will awake with no memory of these wakings. Obstructive sleep apnea patients stop breathing because the soft tissues of the throat and mouth relax during sleep. These tissues fall back and block the airway. If the airway is partially blocked the sleeper will snore. If the airway is completely blocked the sleeper will stop breathing until the brain realizes that oxygen levels are dropping and briefly waken the sleeper to begin breathing again.

Who Is At Risk For Sleep Apnea?

Your risk for obstructive sleep apnea rises if:

  • You are overweight
  • You have a large neck size
  • You are male
  • Over age 50

If you have been told that you snore loudly or make gasping sounds during sleep you should be evaluated by your physician for sleep apnea.

Treating sleep apnea can be as simple as visiting a dentist who has been trained in treating obstructive sleep apnea. Why see a dentist about a sleep disorder? Simple, one of the most effective and comfortable methods of managing obstructive sleep apnea is using an oral appliance. Not all dentists have the training required to correctly fit and adjust these appliances so you should seek a dentist who has specialized training in this area.

Please contact Toccoa, GA sleep apnea dentist Dr. Joseph Wilbanks today at 706-886-9439 to schedule your consultation.



Spring Forward - More People Losing Sleep

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

This weekend it will be time to “spring forward” for daylight savings time.  The lost hour of sleep is a good reminder that many of us don’t get enough sleep, or good quality sleep, each night. Sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea are on the rise and most patients have not been diagnosed.

Obstructive sleep apnea causes a sleeper to stop breathing during sleep. These stoppages of breath occur because the soft tissues of the mouth and throat relax during sleep, fall back, and block the airway. The sleeper briefly wakens to begin breathing again when the brain detects low oxygen levels in the body. Needless to say, this leads to disrupted and fragmented sleep and a host of serious medical problems if not treated.

Could You Have Sleep Apnea?

Signs of possible obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Obesity
  • Large neck size
  • Gasping during sleep
  • Scalloped tongue
  • Daytime fatigue

Untreated sleep apnea has been linked to heart attack, stroke, depression, weight gain and diabetes. Diabetic patients who do not treat their sleep apnea may experience more problems with blood sugar control.

Sleep apnea may be treated using CPAP, continuous positive airway pressure, which is simply a small air compressor that blows air through a hose and mask that is worn during sleep. This is a very effective treatment method but about half of patients cannot tolerate sleeping with the masks and machines.

Oral appliances, custom created in a lab and properly adjusted by a dentist who has training in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea patients is another highly effective method of treating sleep apnea. Most patients who choose an oral appliance find using the device comfortable and easy.

Don’t spring forward into a another year of poor sleep – if you experience the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today to schedule your sleep apnea consultation. We can be reached at 706-886-9439.

Inhaled Asthma Meds Linked to Sleep Apnea

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Many people are prescribed inhaled corticosteroid medications to control their asthma symptoms but a new study suggests a link between these medications and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Obstructive sleep apnea causes people to stop breathing while sleeping. A new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that in come people, the inhaled corticosteroid medications may make the throat and tongue more floppy and more likely to block the airway during sleep, leading to OSA.

Corticosteroid pills and injectables have long been recognized as agents that can lead to muscle weakness and fat accumulation. This pilot study suggests that the inhaled form of these medications, taken by 75% of people with asthma, may affect the airway in the same way. “In the lungs, corticosteroids reduce airway inflammation, but no once has studied how they affect the pharyngeal upper airway,” said Dr. Mihaela Teodorescu.

This small pilot study found that older male subjects who had poor control over their asthma showed upper airway issues and that all subject had changes in tongue function consistent with sleep apnea.

These medication are very important to the 18 million Americans with asthma but this study shows that doctors may need to test for obstructive sleep apnea in asthmatic patients who utilize inhaled corticosteroids.

Obstructive sleep apnea can be effectively managed by using an oral appliance created by a dentist who has received training in the care of sleep apnea patients. OSA is a dangerous disorder and left untreated can lead to heart attack, stroke, diabetes and depression. Loud snoring and extreme daytime fatigue are hallmarks of OSA.

Find out more about OSA and whether you might be a candidate for oral appliance therapy by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-886-9439.

Commercial Drivers and Problems with CPAP

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Commercial drivers and other commercial transportation workers are at high risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea. Evidence of the dangers involved can be found in news reports of fatal crashes involving trucks, trains, and buses. 

By definition, these workers have jobs that keep them away from home for extended periods of time. This makes keeping the appointment with the sleep doctor difficult and, once diagnosed, treatment even harder.

The first line of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is usually a CPAP machine. CPAP is the gold standard for treating this dangerous disorder, but about half of patients cannot tolerate sleeping with the machine. The masks may make them claustrophobic, the hoses difficult to adjust to, the side effects ranging from dry mouth to eye irritation may be hard to overcome.

For commercial drivers who can utilize CPAP, there is another hurdle. Idling laws in many places may make it difficult to use a humidifier attachment and cleaning and sterilizing the tubing may be almost impossible in a truck stop restroom.

There is an alternative treatment for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea that is perfectly suited to traveling. An oral appliance is a small device that is worn in the mouth while sleeping. The appliance, when properly adjusted, moves the jaw into a forward position that keeps the airway open during sleep. Oral appliance therapy has been proven effective and most patients find using the appliance comfortable and easy. There is no electricity needed and the appliance can be cleaned easily with a toothbrush and some denture cleanser.

Find out if you are a candidate for oral appliance therapy by contacting Toccoa, GA sleep apnea dentist Dr. Joseph Wilbanks today. Wilbanks Smile Center can be reached at 706-886-9439 and we’ll be happy to schedule a consultation.


Skip Nighttime Smartphone Use For Better Sleep

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Smartphones have enabled us to handle work emails and calls at any time and anywhere. Using your smartphone at night can actually disrupt your sleep, leaving you less productive the following day.

New research in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes reports that using smartphones to work late at night has a serious effect on workers. “What we have is the doubl-whammy effect,” said study co-author Russell Johnson. “On the one hand, when people are using their phones to conduct work late into the night then they’re less able to detach and disassociate from their job, which makes sleeping more difficult and can lead to mental fatigue.

And at the same time, the kind of blue light given off by these devices seems to interfere with the sleep hormone, melatonin. So there is both a psychological and physiological impact on sleep that can make it more difficult to engage the next day at work,” added Johnson.

Previous research has confirmed that devices that give off blue light, such as smartphones, tablets, computers and TV’s, affect the melatonin production in the body. This study looked at the differences between smartphone use for work or personal use. The results showed that using smartphones for business while in bed was associated with sleeping less.

Give yourself plenty of time to practice good “sleep hygiene” in order to get a good night’s rest. This means giving yourself time, before bed, that is free of anything work related and avoiding the use of electronic devices right before sleep.

If you experience extreme daytime sleepiness and snore during sleep you may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA patients actually stop breathing during sleep! This leaves them feeling exhausted and can lead to heart attack, stroke and weight gain. Oral appliance therapy is highly effective at keeping the airway open during sleep and our patients find wearing an oral appliance comfortable and easy.

Find out more by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-886-9439 to schedule your consultation.

Men and Women Show Different Signs of Sleep Disorders

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Sleep is essential for our bodies to function, but men are typically diagnosed with sleep disorders at a higher rate than women. The most likely reason for this is that men and women show different signs of having a sleep disorder.

Men are more likely to have the common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea which include loud snoring and daytime sleepiness. Women may be more likely to complain about insomnia, headache, irritability and fatigue. Hormones play an important role in sleep for women. Before menopause, reproductive hormones seem to help protect women from sleep apnea. During pregnancy and after menopause women are much more likely to experience sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Societal pressures may cause women to deny sleep problems such as snoring.

Chronic sleep deprivation or having poor quality, fragmented sleep can lead to depression, anxiety,  memory problems, heart rhythm changes and can lead to heart attack or stroke. Having a sleep breathing disorder like obstructive sleep apnea causes fragmented, poor quality sleep every night.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues of the mouth and throat relax during sleep, fall back and block the airway. The sleeper literally stops breathing. This happens throughout the night and the sleeper briefly wakens to gasp for air but does not remember these episodes in the morning. Most people are diagnosed when a bed partner complains about the loud snoring and gasping noises throughout the night.

If you are a woman who is past age 50 and experiences daytime fatigue or memory problems even though you think you are getting a full  night of sleep you should be screened for obstructive sleep apnea. Treating apnea can give you back your energy!

Contact Toccoa, GA sleep apnea dentist Dr. Joe Wilbanks at Wilbanks Smile Center today at 706-886-9439 to schedule a consultation.

High Anxiety Levels? The Problem Could Be Linked to Sleep Apnea

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Lots of people experience high levels of anxiety but if your anxiety levels seem to be rising for no apparent reason you might want to look at your sleep. Anxiety and sleep apnea have been linked in a number of studies. For example, in 2012 a European study found that more than half of sleep apnea patients also “had some degree of depression and anxiety.”

It is important to note that it has not been proven that sleep problems cause anxiety or that anxiety causes sleep problems. A University of California – Berkeley researcher said “It’s been hard to tease out whether sleep loss is simply a byproduct of anxiety, or whether sleep disruption causes anxiety.” It may end up that the link goes both ways!

The connection between anxiety and sleep disorders intrigued Berkeley researchers who hope to discover that treating one condition will influence the other. Their goal was to find the connection between lack of sleep and the increase in brain activity that contributes to excessive worrying and anxiety. The study concluded that experiencing sleep deprivation increased “anticipatory anxiety”.

Dr. Matthew Walker said “These finding help us realize that those people who are anxious by nature are the same people who will suffer the greatest harm from sleep deprivation.” He continued, “By restoring good quality sleep in people suffering from anxiety, we may be able to help ameliorate their excessive worry.”

Patients who have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and given a CPAP machine for treatment may find that the machine increases their anxiety levels. About half of patients find they cannot tolerate sleeping with the machine all night or even use it at all.  An oral appliance can successfully treat mild to serious sleep apnea without the hoses or masks. Our patients find sleeping with an oral appliance comfortable and highly effective.

Please find out more about oral appliances to treat sleep apnea by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-886-9439.


3 Natural Remedies for Poor Sleep

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Tired  of hearing horror stories about sleeping pills (or are you just plain tired) and looking for a more natural remedy for poor sleep? You don’t have to resort to prescription sleeping pills and their scary side effects. The reason you are having sleep problems may be due to a vitamin or mineral deficiency that can be resolved through a healthier diet or supplements.

Here are 3 common sleep problems and the vitamins or minerals that have been linked to them. Remember, before starting any type of vitamin or mineral supplement you should check with your doctor to make sure that the supplement won’t interfere with current medications or cause other problems due to existing health problems.

3 Natural Remedies for Poor Sleep

  1. Trouble getting to sleep has been linked to low levels of magnesium. Magnesium plays a key role in regulating our sleep and insomnia is one of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is found in dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, beans, lentils and Brazil nuts. Increased magnesium levels will also help ensure strong bones and teeth!
  2. Do you have trouble staying asleep? If you fall asleep just fine, but wake up in the middle of the night, you may be low on potassium according to a 1991 study in the journal Sleep. Instead of supplements, try getting your daily requirement though foods such as beans, leafy greens, avocados and baked potatoes. We usually think of bananas as a great food source and bananas contain potassium (about 10% of the daily value) but they aren’t the best source.
  3. Tired during the day? Check your vitamin D levels. A 2012 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and daytime sleepiness. Lots of people are low on the sunshine vitamin because we don’t spend much time in the sun anymore and, as we age, our bodies aren’t as good at making vitamin D from sunlight. Try a few minutes of sunlight every day which will prompt your body to create it’s own vitamin D but fortified dairy products contain vitamin D as well. This is one vitamin where supplements may be in order if suggested by your doctor.

Excessive daytime sleepiness is also a warning sign for a sleep breathing disorder like obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be very dangerous if left untreated. Find out more about sleep breathing disorders today by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA at 706-886-9439 to schedule a consultation.

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