Do You Have Sleep Apnea? Your Dentist Can Help

Thursday, June 21st, 2012, 7:20 pm

Obstructive sleep apnea affects millions of American’s but an estimated 90% of sufferers have not been diagnosed. How do you know if you have sleep apnea and why do dentists care about sleep?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that causes people to stop breathing during sleep. This happens because the soft tissues of the mouth and throat relax and fall back, blocking the airway. A partially blocked airway results in snoring but a completely blocked airway results in no air getting to the lungs. When the brain realizes that it is not getting oxygen it will briefly rouse the sleeper to begin breathing again. The sleeper has no memory of these brief wakings or the snoring and gasping that go along with them. Their bed partner, however, can detail every moment!

Symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, weight gain, mood changes, morning headaches and the need to use the bathroom frequently during the night. Sleep apnea patients also report gastric reflux and depression. Many patients seek a diagnosis because their bed partner has witnessed them stop breathing during sleep.

Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to heart attack, stroke, poor blood sugar control, weight gain and possibly an increased risk of death from cancer.

The first line of treatment for sleep apnea is called continuous positive airway pressure, aka CPAP. CPAP is a wonderful way to treat apnea but it is very difficult for many people to use. About half of all patients who have been given a CPAP fail to use it over the long term – in fact patients are considered “compliant” with their CPAP if they use it for only 4 hours each night!

Here’s where your dentist can help. Specially designed oral appliances worn during sleep keep the airway open by gently moving the lower jaw forward. This keeps the tongue and other tissues from collapsing into the airway and blocking it. The vast majority of patients report that these appliances are comfortable and easy to use. They also love waking up without headaches and having more energy throughout the day!

Find out if you may be a candidate for oral appliance therapy to treat your snoring or sleep apnea. Contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-886-9439 to schedule your consultation.

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Category: Dental Sleep Medicine

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