What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is characterized by abnormal breathing pauses (apneas) or shallow breathing during sleep. These apneas can happen because of a physical blockage to airflow, a lack of respiratory effort, or both.
What causes sleep apnea?
Your tongue, soft palate, and throat tissues relax when you fall asleep deeply. The tongue, soft palate, and throat tissues over-relax in people with sleep apnea, causing them to collapse into the back of the throat and block your airway. When the brain detects a lack of oxygen, it forces you to wake up and consciously resume breathing. Hundreds of times per night, these mini-episodes can occur.
How do I know if I have sleep apnea?
Trouble focusing, heavy snoring, headaches and migraines, fatigue, restless sleep, depression, irritability, and TMJ symptoms are all symptoms of sleep apnea. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor get a proper diagnosis.
If your dentist determines that you have symptoms of sleep apnea, you may be asked to have a sleep evaluation with a sleep specialist or may order an overnight sleep study to objectively evaluate for sleep apnea.
How can sleep apnea be treated?
Many people do not get enough sleep. Prolonged lack of sleep can lead to some major health problems like diabetes, heart disease, depression, and obesity. A major cause of poor sleep is sleep apnea, which is when breathing stops and starts during sleep.
Once you've been diagnosed by a medical professional, your dentists may be able to help you achieve a better night’s sleep with a variety of treatment options.
Oral appliances can help by moving your lower jaw forward, which will pull your tongue away from your throat and soft palate, allowing your airway to open up. Weight loss, exercise, and sleeping on your side can all help you breathe better and get a more restful night's sleep. Your dentist can assist you in determining the best course of action for you.
Why is it important to treat sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea prevents you from falling into the restorative deep sleep you need to recharge your brain and body. This can contribute to many medical disorders, and reduce the quality and longevity of your life.
By treating sleep apnea, your dentist can help you improve and protect your overall health and wellbeing.