Getting a good night’s rest is imperative to both the body and brain, and when too many nights go by without that quality sleep, it may be a sign of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a disorder where a patient experiences interrupted breathing several times during the night, usually due to some type of upper airway blockage. Common signs of this obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) include excessive snoring and various dental issues, such as bruxism (grinding of teeth) and tooth decay. You may also feel tired upon waking and experience fatigue and other symptoms throughout the day.
Medical and dental professionals recognize sleep apnea as a major health concern today, and if left untreated, it can lead to serious health issues in our patients.
Fortunately, though, there are now ways to treat that sleep apnea, and your dentist can evaluate and assist you in finding the right solution, starting with a fitted oral mouthpiece or appliance. In more complex cases, however, additional treatments may need considering, such as the use of PAP devices or even surgery.
Sleep Apnea treatment today may consist of the following options.
Oral Mouthpieces or Appliances
For mild to moderate cases of obstructive sleep apnea, patients can work with their dentist to find a mouthpiece or oral appliance treatment option. These options are designed to keep a patient’s throat open as they sleep and help ensure breathing is continuous throughout the night.
Dentists will custom-fit these devices for patients, ensuring a proper fit that is comfortable as well as beneficial in treating the overall sleep apnea.
The types of mouthpieces available include:
MADs (Mandibular Advancement Devices): MADs work by maintaining the forward positioning of the lower jaw, so the upper airway is open and avoids constriction. These devices are often offered for the relief of chronic snoring and nightly teeth grinding (bruxism), which are also signs of sleep apnea.
TRDs (Tongue Retaining Devices): TRDs prevent the tongue from slipping backward in the mouth as a patient sleeps. Without it, the tongue can potentially block air flow and contribute to interrupted breathing as you sleep.
Once fitted by your dentist, you’ll need to schedule follow-up visits to ensure the fit remains suitable and to mention any new symptoms you are experiencing.
Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) devices are an important component for treating many patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea. These devices require the patient to wear a mask, and they deliver pressurized air continuously throughout the night.
Different types of PAP devices are available, but all require a prescription by your healthcare provider. The prescription itself is based on your particular breathing patterns, which define the necessary pressure settings. Your device arrives pre-set according to these prescribed pressure settings and can be adjusted if necessary.
Different types of PAP Devices include:
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): Perhaps the most common device is the CPAP, which pumps a steady, consistent flow of air through a hose and into your airway as you sleep. The air flow keeps your upper airway passages more open. With this, airway collapse is prevented, and it promotes normal breathing patterns and less sleep interruptions.
Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure (BPAP): The BPAP device differs from the CPAP in that it uses one particular air pressure level for inhalation and a different one for exhalation. In other words, you receive a higher pressure when you inhale and less as you exhale.
Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP): APAP devices provide a more individualized or customized approach, varying the air pressure levels as needed by the patient during his or her particular sleep cycle. The device will automatically adjust the air pressure as you sleep.
Advanced Devices: For those suffering with the more complex sleep apnea, newer treatments are arriving today, such as the Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV). The ASV learns your breathing rhythm and stores that information in its computer. As you sleep, it focuses on normalizing your breathing to match this stored information.
While these devices can be successful, patients often experience discomfort and trouble adjusting to the required mask while sleeping. As a result, many seek the oral mouthpiece or appliance option to treat their sleep apnea instead.
Rarely is any type of surgery recommended to initially treat a patient’s sleep apnea. However, when all else fails to deliver enough positive results, surgery may be recommended.
Surgical recommendations are often made for those patients with anatomical features which can constrict the airway and may require the removal of mouth tissue and even the tonsils and adenoids.
Other surgical options can include jaw repositioning, soft rod implantation, tissue shrinkage, nerve stimulation, or a tracheostomy.
Patients can also take measures on their own to help treat and alleviate sleep apnea. Try these suggested lifestyle changes alone or with your oral mouthpiece or PAP machine.
Lose Weight: Losing weight, even if only a little, can help limit your throat from constricting and blocking the airway when you sleep.
Exercise: Regular exercise is beneficial in easing obstructive sleep apnea symptoms in mild cases, so try to incorporate at least 30 minutes a day into your schedule.
Seek Allergy Treatment: Allergies, either seasonal or year-round, can cause sinuses to stop up and interrupt breathing as you sleep. Consider seeking allergy treatments to help with this.
Avoid or Limit Alcohol and Sedatives: These substances cause muscles in the back of the throat to abnormally relax, which can interfere with your breathing.
Don’t Sleep on Your Back: When lying on your back, the tongue and palate tend to slip back and rest against the throat, blocking your airway. Find ways to keep yourself on your stomach or side while you sleep, such as with a wedge or other device.
Seek the Help of Lifetime Dental Health in Columbus to Treat Your Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea dentistry is your first step in identifying and treating your sleep disorder and getting better rest. Dr. Richard Barry and his team at Lifetime Dental Health are here to help with this and will work with you to find your best solution. Contact our Columbus office today to schedule an appointment with our professional, compassionate team and find out how we can help.