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Sleep Apnea is a dangerous, although common, condition suffered by over 22 million people. It can be a debilitating condition, requiring medical intervention in order to prevent further health risks. It’s a dangerous condition for not only the sufferer, but the sufferer’s partner and family members as well. Keep reading to find out more about sleep apnea, understanding sleep apnea and dental sleep medicine as a treatment in Encino and Los Angeles, and what can happen if you leave sleep apnea untreated.
Understanding Sleep Apnea
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, Sleep Apnea is an involuntary cessation of breathing that occurs while the patient is asleep. The Greek word “apnea” literally means “without breath.” There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Of the three, obstructive sleep apnea, often called OSA for short, is the most common.
Despite the difference in the root cause of each type, in all three, people with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer. In most cases, the sleeper is unaware of these breath stoppages because they don’t trigger a full awakening.
Types of Sleep Apnea
As mentioned, there are three types of sleep apnea. These include:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This form of sleep apnea is the most common. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the airway has been blocked, such as from tissue relaxing in the back of the throat.
- Central Sleep Apnea. When central sleep apnea (CSA) is present, the brain does not send the proper signals to the muscles responsible for breathing.
- Mixed Sleep Apnea. Mixed, or complex, sleep apnea involves a combination of both central and obstructive sleep apneas.
Signs and Symptoms
One of the most dangerous parts about sleep apnea is that 80% of the people who suffer from it are unaware, and therefore, are undiagnosed. That is why it is especially important to look out for signs and symptoms of sleep apnea that can carry over into everyday life. It is also especially important if you suspect your partner may be suffering from sleep apnea, as they likely have no idea and wouldn’t be able to piece it together.
Common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud or frequent snoring
- Silent pauses in breathing
- Choking or gasping sounds
- Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Morning headaches
- Nocturia (waking during the night to go to the bathroom)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Decreased sexual desire
Since Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common of all the forms of sleep apnea, it is of particular importance to know the symptoms of. Questions you can ask yourself include:
- Do I snore? If your loved one has frequently complained of your snoring, don’t laugh it off. Since snoring typically acts as the response to a partially closed airway, snoring can be a telltale sign of the excessive relaxation of soft tissues in the throat (a symptom of OSA). It is estimated that one in three patients who snore are affected by obstructive sleep apnea.
- Do I breathe through my mouth? Mouth breathing cancels the ability to filter out pollutants, allergens, pesticides, smog, pollen, and other microbes when taking in oxygen, often causing swelling and inflammation of the throat that can restrict the airways.
- Do I often feel tired and unenergetic during the day? Daytime sleepiness is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. This is because as patients experience frequent pauses in breathing while asleep, they may fail to spend adequate time in the deeper sleep stages. This results in fatigue and sleepiness throughout the day.
- Do I have a chronic cough, sore throat, or difficulty swallowing? Throat issues have a high correlation to cases of OSA, with conditions like Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and sleep apnea often occurring together. A dry mouth and sore throat upon waking up can be an effect of breathing through the mouth, which is considered dysfunctional breathing that is likely to inflame the tissues of the throat. If you experience this frequently, it is important to pay attention to it.
Dangers of Untreated Sleep Apnea
Aside from experiencing symptoms that carry over into the daytime and disrupting your partner’s sleep patterns, untreated sleep apnea can pose more serious health risks. Since sleep apnea disturbs the normal breathing cycle and the body wakes to restart, it is very difficult to get a good night’s rest. Sleep is extremely important for the body, and not getting an adequate amount can be very dangerous in the long-term.
Health risks associated with undiagnosed sleep apnea include:
- Acid reflux
- Breathing troubles
- Liver problems
- Low blood oxygen levels
- High blood sugar levels
- Abnormal cholesterol
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
- Mental confusion
- Memory problems
Sleep Apnea and Dental Sleep Medicine: Understanding Treatment
While sleep apnea can cause a host of debilitating issues, the good news about it is that it is a treatable condition, and people can go on living happy, normal lives.
Some types of treatment include:
- CPAP machine. This machine is worn while sleeping and can provide air pressure through a mask to prevent snoring and help its user sleep. It is the most common treatment for sleep apnea, however, it is notoriously uncomfortable, cumbersome, difficult to travel with, and not always reliable.
- Oral appliance. Devices that help keep your throat open can help keep the jaw forward, which can help relieve snoring and mild obstructions. However, it takes a lot of work to maintain a good fit and aren’t as reliable as a CPAP machine.
- Treatment for underlying conditions. Many times, sleep apnea can be caused by weight or other underlying conditions. Treating these can help alleviate sleep apnea, or help to get rid of it altogether. We are trained in diagnosing the underlying conditions and our methods and treatments are very successful unless the issue is your genetics.
Dental Sleep Medicine
If you have tried other methods and are still suffering from sleep apnea, or if all other treatment methods aren’t fitting your lifestyle and comfort level, dental sleep medicine is a great way to treat sleep apnea.
Finding the Course of Treatment
When sleep apnea is addressed with the proper treatment, risks associated with the condition are significantly reduced. Specifically, at our center that caters to Encino and Los Angeles, and after the patient has received a sleep apnea diagnosis, Dr. Gorman will talk with them about their symptoms, review their medical history, and may perform a scan utilizing state-of-the-art dental technology to evaluate possible obstructions.
Once he is familiar with the details of their condition, Dr. Gorman will create a personalized treatment plan with the goal of improving their nighttime breathing. This often involves the use of a custom-fitted dental appliance the patient will wear while sleeping. This appliance is comfortable, invisible and does not need any special maintenance. If the patient’s sleep apnea is being caused by the tongue relaxing in the throat, a tongue-retaining device may be the ideal treatment for maintaining an open airway. Should an abnormal jaw position be the cause of breathing difficulties, Dr. Gorman may recommend a special device to correct this alignment. These appliances all help to create a larger airway which has many other benefits and your overall health will improve.
Treat Airway Issues
Be treating airway issues through dental sleep medicine, the patient will experience a host of new benefits to their lives. These include:
- Better concentration
- Higher energy levels
- Better overall mood and fewer mood swings
- Lowered chance of obesity, diabetes, and respiratory disorders
- Better sleep for your partner
- Decreased headaches
- Decreased fatigue and need for naps
- Lowered stress levels
Eliminating the Need for a CPAP Machine
If you have been living with a CPAP machine to treat your sleep apnea, the good news about dental sleep medicine is that you will no longer need one in order to sleep. CPAP machines, while they serve a helpful purpose, can be extremely uncomfortable and cumbersome.
It can be difficult to travel when you have a CPAP machine and can be a sensitive or embarrassing thing for the millions of people who use one. This can cause people to decline to go on trips or to stay at people’s homes due to their CPAP machine. In addition, CPAP machines can be loud. This can be difficult to get used to not only for the user but the user’s partner, as well.
CPAP machines are also notorious for their upkeep. They are difficult to keep clean and to keep well-adjusted on the face. This can lead to a runny or sore nose, irritated eyes, and constant re-fitting to make sure the proper amount of air pressure is being delivered.
Other Conditions Dental Sleep Medicine Can Improve
Sleep apnea isn’t the only condition that dental sleep medicine can treat. More conditions include:
- Sleep Breathing Disorder. The term breathing-related sleep disorder refers to a spectrum of breathing anomalies ranging from chronic or habitual snoring to upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) to frank obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or, in some cases, obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS).
- Upper Respiratory Syndrome. Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) is a condition that was first identified and described at Stanford University. It is very similar to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in that the soft tissue of the throat relaxes, reduces the size of the airway, and results in disturbed sleep and consequent daytime impairment, including excessive daytime sleepiness. Although the increase in upper airway resistance is not enough to meet the criteria of the sleep-disordered breathing that define obstructive sleep apnea, the resulting increase in breathing effort does cause a brief awakening from sleep that is often undetected by the affected individual.
- Respiratory Disturbance Index. The respiratory disturbance index (RDI) — or respiratory distress Index — is a formula used in reporting polysomnography (sleep study) findings. Like the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), it reports on respiratory events during sleep, but unlike the AHI, it also includes respiratory-effort related arousals (RERAs). [ Richardson, Mark A., & Friedman, Norman R. (Eds.) (2007). Clinician’s Guide to Pediatric Sleep Disorders, p. 75. New York: Informa Healthcare USA, Inc.]
- TMJ. The temporomandibular joints, called TMJ, are the joints and jaw muscles that make it possible to open and close your mouth. Located on each side of the head, your TMJ work together when you chew, speak or swallow and include muscles and ligaments as well as the jaw bone. They also control the lower jaw (mandible) as it moves forward, backward and side to side. Each TMJ has a disc between the ball and the socket. The disc cushions the load while enabling the jaw to open widely and rotate or glide. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones from working properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder. Recent research has proven that TMJ is a symptom of Sleep Apnea.
About Gorman Wellness
The Gorman Wellness Center has been helping people suffering from Sleep Apnea with a non-invasive, clinically approved treatment method in the Encino and Los Angeles areas. This method has allowed our patients to sleep with far fewer events per hour allowing them to get rid of their CPAP and BiPAP machines. Imagine not having to use one of those machines, getting back a much greater quality of life along with the benefits of being able to breathe better.
Our dental practice offers a comprehensive array of preventive, cosmetic, and restorative therapies performed with compassion and an eye for detail. Along with general dentistry, we specialize in the preventative health approach to treating misaligned teeth using ALF Lightwire Orthodontics, as well as the management of pain and problems related to TMJ.
When it comes to something as important as your overall health, it is important to treat the underlying causes of dental problems—not just the symptoms. Integrative and Sleep Dentist Dr. Martin Gorman’s approach is rooted in the optimal health-based philosophy of Bioesthetic Dentistry. It is based on years of research and observation of the human chewing system. In healthy systems, there is a balance between airway, esthetics, function, and comfort. In simple terms, Integrative Dental Medicine provides you with a healthy mouth that looks great, feels great, and chews great!
For more information, visit https://www.mgormandental.com