What you should know about sleep apnea
Sleep apnea (a.k.a sleep apnea syndrome) is a serious condition that most people are blissfully unaware of. Here at Smart Smile Dentistry in Gainesville, FL. we’ve been extensively trained in treating this often overlooked problem.
What is sleep apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where your airways become blocked while you sleep, typically as a result of soft tissue in your mouth relaxing and collapsing. As a natural response to the sudden lack of respiration your body wakes you up. This can happen multiple times a night.
What are the signs of sleep apnea?
The single most noticeable sign of sleep apnea is snoring and choking during sleep. Unfortunately, as you’re sleeping during these episodes it can be very difficult to notice yourself, and consequently most warning signs are picked up by partners or family members.
Other signs that are more obvious to the sufferer are feeling fatigued after a night’s sleep and waking up consistently throughout the night. If you find yourself inexplicably drowsy or sleepy during the day it may mean disruptive sleep at night and consequently sleep apnea. Consistently falling asleep during the day is a more obvious sign.
If you suffer any of these symptoms it’s highly recommended you get yourself checked. While snoring can seem like just a nuisance — and sometimes it is — it can also be indicating a much larger and more sinister health concern.
What’s the harm?
Obstructive sleep apnea has many worrying consequences. Primarily the problem is that it repeatedly denies your organ systems oxygen for brief intervals which can dramatically impact your overall health. This can lead to an array of problems such as diabetes, depression, and strokes.
Severe sleep apnea, if left untreated
- is strongly related to fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular problems1.
- is linked to overall mortality, with one study concluding that mortality rates of sufferers were “excessive” compared to the general population2.
- can result in major, sometimes fatal, motor vehicle accidents due to driver fatigue linked to their restless sleep3. Treating subjects’ sleep apnea led to a marked decrease in accidents, while leaving the condition untreated resulted in no decline.
Even more worrying is that it’s estimated up to 80% of sleep apnea sufferers are undiagnosed. That’s a lot of people walking around with a potentially deadly condition who don’t even know it.
Sleep apnea treatment. How do you treat sleep apnea?
Luckily there are many ways to treat obstructive sleep apnea, depending on the exact nature of the condition.
Smoking, drinking, and weight can all be contributing factors to sleep apnea, so sometimes the most appropriate course of action is to advise lifestyle changes that will help alleviate the condition.
A Constant Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, machine can be used to force air through the nose while you sleep to keep your airways open. This is widely regarded as the most effective treatment, however there is some discomfort and noise, which many patients find undesirable.
Surgery can be performed to alleviate obstructive sleep apnea, but the viability of the procedure is dependent on the patient.
One treatment method we’re proud to provide at Smart Smile Dentistry is oral appliance therapy. There are many types, but generally they all work by keeping the lower jaw in a forward position, preventing the tongue from slipping back and blocking the airway while you sleep. After assessing patients for viability we construct a custom oral appliance that is tailor-made to the patient’s mouth and their condition.
Our sleep apnea specialist at Smart Smile Dentistry, Dr Samant DDS, can help you determine which snoring or sleep apnea treatment solution is best for you. Contact us at our Gainesville location today at (352) 376-5120 to schedule your appointment.