First off, what is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder characterized by breathing interruptions or shallow breathing while sleeping. These interruptions can last from a few seconds to minutes. When we sleep, the muscles of our body are in a state of relaxation, and in some cases, the muscles of the throat and mouth and soft fatty tissues relax so much that they block the airways.
It disturbs normal sleep and if left untreated, may increase the rates of heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Obstructive sleep apnea, caused by a blocked airway, is the most common and is responsible for almost 84% of the cases. Males are much more susceptible than females towards this disorder.
And it is far more common that thought. A study concludes that almost 18 million Americans are affected by this sleep disorder.
Relation between Sleep Apnea and Dentistry
Often sleep apnea can be detected from your oral health. Tooth grinding or bruxism is one of the common signs associated with this disorder. There is evidence that treating sleep apnea often causes a marked decrease in bruxism in the patients.
Dentists have been specially trained to treat this disorder. A confirmation from a certified sleep medicine specialist is essential before any treatment is undertaken.
Ways to Treat Sleep Apnea Orally
If you have to battle sleep apena, and feel it is getting out of hand, do not worry; fortunately, you can treat it easily.
The options for treatment of sleep apnea include many treatments which are discussed below.
Oral Appliance Therapy
This therapy involves wearing an oral appliance device in the mouth while sleeping. This device resembles a sports mouth guard. Some devices hold the tongue in place (tongue retaining devices) while others keep the lower jaw down slightly(mandibular devices) to provide an unobstructed breathing passage.
For people with less severe sleep apnea, this is often the preferred method of treatment as it is portable and easy to use. These devices can be custom made to suit individual needs.
There are a variety of surgeries that can be performed to cure sleep apnea. These surgeries deal with moving the jaws forward slightly or tightening the soft tissues and the tongue muscles, thus enlarging the airway. Among these procedures, MMA (Maxillomandibular Advancement) is the most popular, with 94-100% success rates.
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)
It is one of the most popular methods of treatment. In CPAP, while sleeping, a mask is worn, and there is a gentle and continuous supply of air that keeps the airways open. There is a tube that connects the CPAP machine to the mask. This eliminates breathing interruptions during sleep.
What do we recommend?
It is essential to treat sleep apnea as quickly as possible, as untreated cases may turn fatal. If the disorder is diagnosed, one can avail any of the procedures mentioned above to prevent this sleep disorder from disrupting sleep and day-to-day activities.