Do You or Your Loved One Suffer From Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. The term sleep apnea is derived from the Greek etymology meaning “without breath”. Breathing pauses can last anywhere from several seconds to minutes, and happen as often as 30 times or more per hour. Ongoing disrupted breathing causes an imbalance between the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the bloodstream, as not enough carbon dioxide is exiting and not enough oxygen is entering the body.
Sensing this imbalance, the brain sends a message to the body, telling it to wake up to restart the breathing process. People with sleep apnea will partially awake as they struggle to breathe, and this is often accompanied by loud snoring or choking sensations. Because people with sleep apnea don’t always completely awake during the episodes, they are often unaware they have a sleeping disorder and it can remain undiagnosed.
Schedule a Sleep Apnea Consultation in Fresno
At Fresno Dental Professionals, we take sleep apnea very seriously as it can potentially be a life-threatening sleep disorder. The National Institute of Health estimates that more than 12 million Americans have sleep apnea and symptoms are often undetected or misdiagnosed. Many people do not know that they have sleep apnea until someone else witnesses it or a doctor identifies the symptoms.
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The Two Main Types of Sleep Apnea
There are two common types of this sleep disorder.
- Central Sleep Apnea
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea (CAS) which occurs when the brain fails to send important signals to the breathing muscles, and obstructive sleep apnea which occurs when air cannot flow through the nose or mouth even though the body is still trying to breathe.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is far more prevalent and easily treatable by the dentist.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Common signs of obstructive sleep apnea can include severe early morning headaches, sleepiness in the daytime, and insomnia. Fortunately, the dentist is equipped with the necessary technology and expertise to treat sleep apnea in several different ways.
- Loud snoring
- Gasping for air
- Choking in one’s sleep
- Daytime sleepiness
- Regular dry mouth or throat
- Memory loss
- Morning headaches
- Increased blood pressure
- Chronic fatigue
Treating Sleep Apnea in Fresno
It is very important to seek medical attention if sleep apnea is suspected. A sufferer can completely stop breathing numerous times per hour, and this can quickly turn into a deadly situation. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissue lying at the back of the patient’s throat collapses into the airway. The tongue then falls towards the back of the throat which tightens the blockage and prevents oxygen from entering the lungs.
The problem worsens when the chest region, diaphragm, and abdomen fight for air. The efforts they make to obtain vital oxygen only cause a further tightening of the blockage. The patient must arouse from deep sleep to tense the tongue and remove the soft tissue from the airway.
Because sleep apnea causes carbon dioxide levels to skyrocket in the blood and oxygen levels to decrease, the heart has to pump harder and faster to compensate for the lack of oxygen. Sleep apnea patients can technically “die” many times each night. Sleep apnea has been linked to a series of serious heart-related conditions, and should be investigated by the dentist at the earliest opportunity.
What Does Treatment Involve?
Although our Fresno dentists are able to help those who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, it is a medical problem that needs to be diagnosed and monitored by a medical professional.
Traditional treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP machine. A CPAP machine is prescribed by a medical doctor and applies positive airway pressure to open up airways while sleeping. Many patients complain, however, that the CPAP is too noisy, bulky, or hard to wear. For these patients, we offer oral appliances that resemble a sports mouth guard. At Fresno Dental Professionals, we have been highly successful at using oral appliances to treat patients suffering from mild to medium sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea oral appliances are designed to either shift the lower jaw forward and slightly down to keep the airway open, or to keep the tongue from obstructing the airway. Patients appreciate the comfort, quietness, and compactness of this sleep apnea oral appliance.
Some physicians recommend both the CPAP and an oral appliance be used to combat sleep apnea. One can be worn at home while the other may be utilized while traveling. Regardless of your selected treatment method, sleep apnea should always be followed regularly by a medical physician on a regular basis.
Utilizing an oral airway appliance can make a huge difference in the life of someone suffering from sleep apnea. Patients report feeling more rested, having more energy and improved health issue such as lower blood pressure and weight loss.
If you have any questions regarding sleep apnea treatment in Fresno, please feel free to give us a call or schedule a consultation today.
Types of Sleep Apnea Appliances
Sleep apnea appliances fall into two categories: fixed and adjustable. Here are brief descriptions of some commonly used sleep apnea dental appliances:
TAP® 3 (Thornton Adjustable Positioner)
The TAP® 3 is the smallest, most comfortable member of the TAP family. It is a two-part custom-created sleep apnea appliance that fits over the teeth in much the same way as a sports mouthguard. The TAP® 3 projects the jaw forward to prevent the tongue and soft tissues from impeding the airway. The lower jaw positioner is adjustable, which means that it can be altered to suit the comfort level of the wearer. The TAP® 3 appliance can accommodate the three main types of malocclusion, and allows the lips to fully close.
The OASYS appliance is designed to move the base of the tongue toward the front of the mouth by gently repositioning the jawbone (mandible). This shift opens the oropharynx and strengthens the upper airway. An extension of the upper shield projects toward the nose, creating a larger nasal opening and less resistance to normal airflow. This adjustable appliance is comfortable to wear and extremely patient friendly.
The KlearwayTM Appliance is generally used to alleviate obstructive sleep disorder and eliminate snoring. The patient or dentist can project the jaw forwards in increments of .25mm at a time. This ensures maximum comfort for the sleeper. The KlearwayTM appliance is made from VariflexTM heat softening acrylic, which makes it easier to insert. Running warm water over the appliance makes it pliable, but once placed in the desired position, the acrylic hardens again.
Herbst Telescopic Appliance
The Herbst appliance is held in the mouth by clasps and friction grips. It is made of acrylic, and contains adjustable metal wiring. The advantage of this appliance is that the wearer is able to move vertically and laterally without dislodging the appliance. The Herbst appliance is usually used in mild and moderate cases of sleep apnea, and can also alleviate loud snoring effectively.
Give us a call if you have any questions about the different types of appliances available to treat sleep apnea in Fresno.