First, why is snoring one sign of sleep apnea?
Snoring is the sign of a breathing problem. It occurs when the jaw opens and the tongue falls into the back of the throat, causing the airway to narrow and forcing air through the smaller opening. This creates sound vibrations in the throat known as snoring. Snoring can seriously affect your quality of life. It can be embarrassing and inconvenient and can cause problems in relationships. In some cases, snoring is a red flag for a more serious medical problem called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
What is obstructive sleep apnea?
OSA occurs when the muscles and tissue surrounding the throat relax causing the airway to completely collapse and block airflow into the lungs. This blockage cuts off the oxygen supply to the body and brain. The airway obstruction persists until the brain partially awakens the person. The repeating cycle of falling asleep, muscles relaxing, airway collapsing, unconsciously awakening with gasping is the reason there is never a restful night of sleep. The lack of oxygen puts extra stress on the entire body, especially the heart.
Health problems that sleep apnea can cause:
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Renal disease
- Erectile dysfunction
- Morning headaches
Recently, there has been an increased correlation between sleep apnea and certain cancers, too.
Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea:
If you experience multiple symptoms, you should contact your local dentist about referring you for a sleep study.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Wake up feeling NOT refreshed
- Difficulty in concentration
- A difference in your level of attention
- Frequent nighttime urination
- Loud snoring
- Stopping breathing at night
Treatments for snoring and sleep apnea:
The two most common devices for treatment are the CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) device and an oral appliance such as the TAP (Thornton adjustable positioner) or EMA (elastic mandibular advancement). The CPAP is a mask worn on the nose or over the mouth connected to a machine that forces air past the obstruction in your throat and allows you to breathe while you are asleep. The TAP and EMA are oral appliances that move the lower jaw forward to open the airway so you can breathe better while sleeping.
Both devices work well for OSA and snoring. Statistically, the TAP or EMA have a much better compliance rate than the CPAP. This simply means that more people will wear the appliance long term. Oral appliances are the treatment of choice for mild to moderate OSA. The CPAP, or a combination of both, is the treatment of choice for severe OSA.
Most people have heard about the CPAP, but not many know that there is another option. Dentists have been treating snoring and sleep apnea with oral devices for many years. Most medical insurances are now paying for the TAP and EMA appliances. These appliances can only be made by your dentist, so be aware of mail order devices that you see on television. You must be supervised by your dentist so that serious complications can be avoided.
A sleep study (polysomnogram) and diagnosis by a sleep physician is a must for treating OSA. You can go to your dentist for a consultation about your symptoms and possible treatment of snoring and OSA. Your dentist can refer you to a specialist for a sleep study and a diagnosis by a sleep physician then treat you with an oral appliance. Just make sure your dentist is experienced in oral appliances such as the TAP or EMA and can file it on your medical insurance. This requires additional training that not all dentists have.
If you are currently wearing a CPAP and hate it, cannot wear one any more or never wanted to try one, you are in luck. There is another option. Find a dentist that is experienced in treating patients with an oral appliance and filing it on medical insurance. Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious condition with serious health consequences. It must be treated. Take the initiative and call your dentist today.
Dr. Bryan Austin and his team of dentists in Little Rock and Maumelle, Arkansas can help you solve issues like snoring and sleep apnea, and they can also help you create the smile you’ve been dreaming of this season at our award-winning Arkansas family dental practice. Click HERE to schedule a consultation with us today! New patients receive FREE teeth whitening for a limited time!