Researchers estimate that between 2% and 9% of U.S. adults suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. In fact, the number could be much higher, as many cases go undiagnosed.
If you struggle with this condition, you know that it can affect both the quality of your sleep and the quality of your life.
Thankfully, there are treatments and appliances designed to help treat the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. Could your dentist help you find the relief you need?
Today, we’re taking a closer look at the types of treatments available and how to take the next step toward a better night’s sleep.
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that causes your breathing to stop and start repeatedly throughout the night.
This particular form of sleep apnea is characterized by over-relaxed throat muscles that slack to the extent that they narrow or block your airway as you breathe.
The other, less common type is called central sleep apnea. This condition occurs when your brain doesn’t send the right signals to the muscles that control your breathing as you sleep.
A few of the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Loud snoring
- Excessive daytime fatigue
- Observed episodes of breath starting/stopping during sleep
- Waking with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Sudden wakeups, accompanied by gasping or choking
When you can’t get a great night’s sleep, the rest of your day can suffer. Thankfully, your dentist may be able to help.
How Will My Dentist Diagnose Sleep Apnea?
Dentists are often some of the first healthcare professionals to observe symptoms of sleep apnea in a patient. They’re uniquely positioned to do so because the signs of airway dysfunction often manifest in the mouth.
For instance, your dentist might notice that your airway is narrower or smaller than most, which could contribute to this condition. Other signs can include:
- Dry lips and mouth
- Chronic bad breath (halitosis)
- Small jaw
- Large tongue
- Oversized tonsils or adenoids
- Scalloped edges on your tongue
- Swollen or red gums that bleed easily
- Worn enamel caused by tooth grinding
Your dentist may ask a few critical questions at your visit to better understand what’s going on. For instance, they might ask:
- Do you have insomnia?
- Do you snore, or has someone told you that you snore?
- Do you find it difficult to breathe through your nose?
To better view your airway structure, your dentist may take dental X-rays during the diagnostic process. Or they may perform an endoscope evaluation. If more details are still required, they may refer you to a sleep doctor for further evaluation.
What Kinds of Sleep Apnea Treatments Can My Dentist Offer ?
If your dentist confirms that your sleep issues are attributed to obstructive sleep apnea, they can provide a few different treatments to help you achieve more restorative rest.
Sometimes, treating an issue associated with sleep apnea can take care of the issue itself. For instance, your dentist might provide a treatment for bruxism (teeth grinding) that can significantly improve your sleep quality.
In addition, there are also treatments specifically designed to resolve the airway issues that are at the root of your sleep apnea. Let’s take a look at a few of your options.
Your dentist can create a custom oral appliance designed to fit comfortably around the unique contours of your mouth. You’ll wear this appliance at night. These appliances are available in a range of different sizes and styles to fit your needs.
Some are made to prevent your tongue from blocking your throat as you sleep. Others gently advance your lower jaw forward to open your airway better. Some appliances perform both functions.
Oral appliances can work well for people who suffer from mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. However, others with this condition might find a CPAP machine to be the most effective.
A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is a special breathing device that gently increases air pressure in your throat as you sleep. This prevents your airway from collapsing when you take a breath.
While many patients find relief by using a CPAP machine, the devices can be bulky and cumbersome to wear. The components can include a mask that covers your nose and mouth, a mask that only covers your nose or prongs that fit inside of your nose.
None of these is exactly comfortable, which is why many people opt to use a custom-fitted oral appliance instead.
In addition to or in lieu of an oral device or CPAP machine, your dentist may recommend orofacial therapy to help address your sleep apnea.
During your therapy sessions, you’ll work to improve your tongue positioning. You’ll also focus on strengthening the muscles in your mouth that work with your breath, including your lips, tongue, and soft palate.
If you suffer from severe obstructive sleep apnea, your dentist may recommend a surgical procedure to address your restrictive airway issues. This is especially common for young patients.
These procedures can include a:
- Jaw advancement surgery
Does My Dentist Have Special Training?
Airway issues could lead to potentially dangerous complications if left untreated. This is why it’s essential to select a doctor who knows exactly how to diagnose and address this concern.
Before moving forward, check to see if your dentist has training and experience in the field of snoring and sleep apnea. At our office, you can rest assured that your Lakeway dentist, Dr. Tomasik, has received specialized training in how to treat this condition effectively.
Find Relief From Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Everyone deserves a solid night’s rest. Obstructive sleep apnea disrupts your sleep, negatively impacting your mental, physical, and emotional health.
If you suffer from this condition, there are treatments available. Our team at Tomasik Family Dental can help you find relief in the form that works best for you.
When you’re ready, you can contact us to make an appointment at our Bee Cave dentist office and learn more about the services we provide.