Snoring and sleep apnea are two of the most common sleep-related breathing disorders. The position of the jaws and related structures influence the development of sleep apnea. Not many people would even think of seeking out a dentist for treatment however a dentist is a key professional in the diagnosis and treatment for selective cases. The dentists at Chapel Hill Family and Cosmetic Dentistry are experienced in the treatment for sleep apnea using oral appliances.
Snoring by itself is generally not a health problem, however, it can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Patients who suffer from OSA repeatedly stop breathing while they sleep. The prevalence of sleep apnea increases with age and it is estimated that as many as 50% of elderly men and women suffer from the disorder.
OSA occurs when a person stops breathing due to an obstruction in the upper airway. This is caused when the muscles in the back of the throat completely relax and then air is not able to pass through. Once this happens, signals that breathing has stopped are sent to the brain and the person will make up momentarily to open the airway back up. Breathing stops for about ten seconds or longer during a single episode but a person can have many episodes during sleep.
Signs & Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
When you visit Dr. Furgurson or Dr. White, we will review your medical history and discuss some of the signs that could indicate a sleep breathing disorder. Common signs include:
- Daytime sleepiness and the tendency to fall asleep while reading, watching television or driving
- Loud snoring
- Gasping while sleeping
- Dry mouth
- Morning headaches
- Problems with concentration, mood and mental clarity
Diagnosing a Sleep-Related Breathing Disorder
Diagnosing a sleep-related breathing disorder such as OSA typically involves the dentist as well as the patient’s physician and/or other specialists. Diagnostic imaging such as x-rays may be done to examine the airway and look for signs of blockage. A sleep study may be performed, either at home or at a specialist’s office, to evaluate the quality of sleep.
Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Treatment for OSA will vary based on individual diagnosis. Certain lifestyle changes can help to alleviate the symptoms of OSA including weight loss, smoking cessation and eliminating alcohol and sedative use. The CPAP is the gold standard treatment for sleep apnea but often has a poor compliance level, because people often find it to be uncomfortable and intrusive while sleeping.
An oral appliance has shown to be the preferred treatment among most patients. An oral appliance is small, discreet and comfortable to wear. Dr. Furgurson can fabricate a custom made sleep apnea appliance, similar to a sports mouthguard, for you to wear during sleep.
An oral appliance works by keeping the airway open to allow for proper air flow. It will reposition the jaw and tongue in a forward position so that the airway is never obstructed. You will be able to experience a full nights sleep and wake up feeling well rested if worn properly and regularly.