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Do you snore? That can be a sign of sleep apnea, a common condition that affects 25 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. People with sleep apnea repeatedly stop breathing in their sleep, which interrupts oxygen flow and can lead to a number of health problems.
Unfortunately, many people don’t know they have the disorder. One study estimates only about 16 percent of sleep apnea sufferers receive treatment. A lot of people with the disorder first try treating it with a CPAP mask. The acronym stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and it fits over your nose or nose-and-mouth, increasing air pressure in your throat so your airway does not collapse when you breathe in. The problem is that many people hate wearing the CPAP; they feel claustrophobic, suffer from a dry or stuffy nose, or have trouble getting used to wearing the CPAP device.
It’s only been in the last few years that dentists like Dr. Samuels have become part of the solution to treating sleep apnea. Dr. Samuels has completed extensive training and is qualified to treat sleep apnea with Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT).
To find out how we can help treat your sleep apnea, please call us today at (203) 742-1027.
How Are Snoring and Sleep Apnea Related?
Snoring is caused when the flow of air causes the tissues of the roof of the mouth and throat to vibrate. If something is obstructing the airflow, the snoring can become worse. A cold, sinus infection, and nasal polyps can all lead to snoring. Being overweight or having large tonsils or adenoids can also lead to snoring. Another physical issue could be if the dangling tissue in the back of the mouth, called the uvula, narrows the opening from the nose to the throat and vibrates. Snoring can also be caused by relaxed throat or tongue muscles, such as when you’re in a deep sleep or have consumed alcohol, drugs, or some types of prescription medicine. Even aging can lead to these muscles becoming too relaxed to correctly keep the airway open.
Light snoring is very common and is not usually indicative of a health problem – although the sound of it may be very annoying to your bed partner. Habitual or ongoing snoring can interrupt breathing and interrupt sleeping; it can be so loud that it wakes you up, or the interruptions can dangerously lower your body’s oxygen levels, forcing the brain to wake you up so you can take a proper breath. Sleep apnea can interrupt your regular sleep dozens or even hundreds of times each night, preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep.
What Happens if Sleep Apnea Remains Untreated?
If you think you have sleep apnea, it’s important to have it diagnosed and treated. People with sleep apnea stop breathing several times during the night because the airway has become partially blocked.
If sleep apnea remains untreated for too long, it can lead to severe health problems, including:
- Heart attack
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
What are Some Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
When people come to see our dentist in Stratford, they may have symptoms of sleep apnea and not even know it. Signs of sleep apnea may include:
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Short-term memory loss
- Poor concentration
- Weight gain
- Heartburn and indigestion
- Sinus problems
- Night sweats
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your primary care physician to diagnose the cause. If it is sleep apnea, then ask your doctor if Oral Appliance Therapy in Stratford is the best course of treatment for you.
How Does Sleep Apnea Occur?
There are three forms of sleep apnea. Only a proper diagnosis can determine which one you have:
- Obstructive sleep apnea is an airway blockage caused by a genetic abnormality such as excessive tissue in the back of the tongue, throat or nose. This is the kind of sleep apnea that Oral Appliance Therapy typically helps.
- Central sleep apnea results when the brain fails to send proper signals to muscles responsible for breathing.
- Mixed sleep apnea (also called complex sleep apnea) is diagnosed when both central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea are present.
An Alternative to CPAP
Oral appliance therapy, which is also called OAT treatment, is used for treating mild to moderate sleep apnea and snoring caused by a repetitive airway obstruction. Our dentist at Lighthouse Dental Care may be able to correct obstructive sleep apnea by giving you with a custom-made oral appliance that you wear at night. The oral appliance looks like a mouth guard or a retainer and helps keep the airway open.
If your sleep apnea is caused by your tongue resting on the airway, our dentist may be able to correct the problem with a tongue-retaining device. If the sleep apnea is caused by how the jaw is positioned, then our dentist may be able to treat the problem with headgear or another device designed to adjust the jaw’s positioning. All of the devices are removable; you only wear them when you sleep.
Whether an oral appliance will work for you depends on the type and severity of the sleep apnea condition you have. People with severe sleep apnea are generally not good candidates for oral appliances because the treatment will not adequately treat their apnea. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy remains the standard of care for those patients. However, if you have trouble wearing the CPAP mask or do not respond well to the CPAP treatment, talk about to your primary care physician or sleep specialist about other options that you could receive at our dental office in Stratford.
Schedule a Sleep Apnea Treatment Consultation Today
If you think you may have sleep apnea, talk to your primary care physician to arrange a sleep study so it can diagnosed. There are several methods for treatment. To find out if an oral appliance is the best answer for you, call our office today at (203) 742-1027. We look forward to helping you get a good night’s sleep.
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