According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 12 million Americans experience a sleep condition called sleep apnea. A good night of sleep is critical to your ability to function during the day, and treatment for this condition can help you sleep better.
At Galleria Dental Aesthetics in McLean, VA, our dentists can provide relief by determining the best sleep apnea treatment for you.
The Importance of a Good Night's Sleep:
Adults should get between seven and eight hours of sleep every night; however, the quality of sleep is just as important as the length of sleep. When deep sleep is constantly interrupted, the consequences include:
- Excessive daytime fatigue
- Poor concentration
- Difficulty waking in the morning
- Strained relationships with bed partners
Sometimes the fatigue is to an extent that it will be dangerous for you to drive. Your ability to concentrate during the day is possible because of the restorative power of sleep, and a compromised ability to concentrate can negatively affect your work performance. Don’t continue to deprive yourself of a good night sleep and get the treatment you need to treat your sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
The word “apnea” is Greek for “without breath.” Sleep apnea occurs when the airway is obstructed by relaxed muscles, excessive fat, tonsils or the tongue. Oxygen cannot adequately pass through the restricted airway, and snoring occurs as the soft tissues vibrate. As the pause in breathing occurs, your brain will signal you to wake up. Most likely you will not wake fully, and in the morning you won’t recall these instances of waking.
The sleep disruption may not be noticeable, but it will negatively affect the amount of restful sleep you can get. Sleep apnea occurs when a person takes shallow breaths or even has breaks during breathing patterns while sleeping. Sleep apnea can be classified as obstructive sleep apnea or central sleep apnea.
Signs of Sleep Apnea:
Sleep apnea occurs more often in men; however women can experience it too, especially after menopause. As we age, the risk of sleep apnea increases, and it is estimated that 1 out of 10 people age 65 or older has this condition. If the fat content in your body is too high, this can cause fat deposits in the airway that may obstruct breathing. You may have a thick neck circumference which can cause a narrowing in the throat, or have a narrow airway.
Sleep apnea significantly more people after the age of 60. Smoking may increase the inflammation around the airway which can cause sleep apnea, and the use of alcohol, tranquilizers, or sedatives can relax the muscles in your throat, thereby causing breathing problems.
What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
Since the breaks in breathing occur while the patient is asleep, the people who have this condition are very often unaware that sleep apnea is occurring. It is most often their spouse or other members of their household who notice the symptoms. There are also secondary symptoms that can occur during waking hours from the sleep interruptions the patient is experiencing, such as:
- Loud snoring
- Choking or gasping sounds during sleep
- Chronic pauses in breathing patterns that last for a few seconds up to minutes in length
- Extreme fatigue
- Mood swings
- Concentration problems
- Dry mouth
Children with sleep apnea may also exhibit aggressive or hyperactive behavior, difficulty in school or bedwetting.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
There are many causes that can lead to sleep apnea in patients, including:
- Having a small airway; nose, mouth or throat
- Having an enlarged uvula
- Having a soft palate
- Men are twice as likely to suffer from sleep apnea
- Having suffered from a stroke or brain tumor
Types of Sleep Apnea:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs because your airway may be blocked by an abnormality that you were
born with like excessive tissue in the back of the tongue, throat, or nose. Sleep apnea is more than just annoying; it can be dangerous. When air is not allowed to flow into and out of your lungs because of blockage, your blood oxygen level will drop. As this level drops, the brain is activated to interrupt your sleeping pattern and tighten the muscles, which opens the airways.
This can occur frequently throughout the night. In fact, some patients have sleep apnea gasps up to 30 times an hour. Not surprisingly, this sleep interruption releases stress hormones and can lead to a whole host of physical problems, including extreme fatigue, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure and more.
Central Sleep Apnea:
Sleep apnea occurs when the throat airways become blocked or obstructed. This can happen if:
- The tongue and throat muscles become over-relaxed during sleep
- The tonsils and tongue are enlarged
- The size of the airway is too small
- There is excess fat tissue in the windpipe causing a more narrow opening, often a side effect of being overweight
Sleep Apnea Treatment:
Before suggesting a medical treatment, our doctors might suggest a lifestyle change to treat sleep apnea. This could include losing weight, quitting smoking, or cutting down on alcohol. If this is not an optimal option, custom-made mouthpieces and nasal devices are made as treatment options. Other forms of treatment include:
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure: A CPAP machine consists of a machine, a tube, and a mask that covers the nose and mouth. This machine continuous blows air into the throat, applying the pressure it needs to remain open during sleep.
- Surgery: This solution is typically a last resort. When all else false, a surgeon can reposition the mouth and facial bones to improve structure. Surgery is also used to remove collapsable tissue that causes sleep apnea.
How is a Sleep Disorder Diagnosed?
Our dentists, including Dr. Chong Lee, will screen for sleep apnea by first evaluating your symptoms with a thorough evaluation. Personal and family medical history will also be taken into consideration when determining if an overnight sleep study is needed. During a sleep study, you will sleep with painless sensors attached to several areas of your face and limbs to record:
- Blood oxygen levels
- Breathing patterns
- Heart rate
- Brain activity
- Muscle activity
- Airflow into and out of the lungs
Once sleep apnea has been diagnosed, the patient can begin exploring different sleep apnea treatment options.
Sleep Apnea Patient Testimonial:
“I was always shy when it came to my smile. My teeth were uneven and a little bit discolored from medication I had to take as a kid. I talked to Dr. Oh about what he could do for me. He was wonderful – so professional and so patient. He took me through every step of the process and even used a computer to show me what my smile would look like when he was done. Now I have a gorgeous smile that I am proud to share with everyone. I look at old photographs of myself covering my mouth of not even smiling – all that’s changed forever now thanks to Dr. Oh. I’d recommend him to anyone!” – Sarah
What is Snoring?
Snoring is often caused by sleep apnea, a condition that causes momentary breathing lapses while you are asleep. These lapses typically only last a few moments, but can occur anywhere between 5-30 times in 1 hour. This condition makes it impossible to get an adequate amount of restful sleep.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring can greatly affect your ability to have restful sleep. There are several causes of snoring, and at Galleria Dental Aesthetics, our experienced McLean dentists can determine if sleep apnea is the reason for this. Snoring can be caused by:
- Sleep apnea
- Swollen turbinates
- Deviated nasal septum
- Alcohol consumption
Some of these causes can be remedied with lifestyle changes. For example, losing weight or cutting back on alcohol consumption may eliminate your snoring. Snoring can be dangerous if it is caused by sleep apnea; the condition restricts the flow of oxygen through your airway, causing negative health effects. If sleep apnea is the cause of your snoring, you should seek treatment as soon as possible.