Sleep Apnea Treatment
Do you suffer from chronic snoring? This night time habit can be annoying for your bed partner or other members of the household, but it’s usually considered harmless. However, snoring may be an indicator of a more serious health condition: sleep apnea. But snoring isn’t the only symptom of sleep apnea, and many snorers are not even aware they are doing it! Other signs that you may be struggling with sleep apnea include waking up with a sore or dry throat, dry mouth, occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation, restless sleep, sleepiness during the day, morning headaches, dizziness, and frequent nightmares. If you’ve been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea by your doctor or a sleep specialist, please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Judy Sturm & Associates.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized as a pause in breathing for 10 seconds or more during sleep. This happens because of airway blockage due to the size or swelling of passageways or the position of the tongue or jaw. When the air flow is reduced, the brain sends out an emergency signal that causes OSA sufferers to wake up and readjust. While many patients may not register this brief rousing, pauses like this happen countless times each night leading to daytime exhaustion, painful headaches, tinnitus, stress, elevated blood pressure, and much more. Obstructive sleep apnea places a lot of stress on your body, especially your heart. Sleep apnea increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and if you already have heart problems, obstructive sleep apnea can make your condition much worse. Strained hearts that experience multiple episodes of low blood oxygen caused by sleep apnea are at risk of developing arrhythmias.
Obstructive sleep apnea is surprisingly common. Around 22 million Americans have sleep apnea. OSA is the culprit behind more cases than the less common central sleep apnea, which develops when your brain doesn’t signal your breathing muscles. Although sleep apnea is a common condition, it is estimated that 80% of moderate to severe cases go undiagnosed! That’s why it is important that you discuss your symptoms and concerns with a physician and make an appointment with Dr. Judy Sturm & Associates.
The good news when faced with a case of sleep apnea is that surgical intervention is not necessary in most cases. Many patients rely on a nasal mask (CPAP) that pushes air through the nasal passages to keep the airway open. However, this device often further disrupts sleep and some find them uncomfortable. Some people who rely on CPAPs to treat their obstructive sleep apnea find that the mask feels claustrophobic, dries out their nose and mouth, and is difficult to use correctly. CPAP machines also require time-consuming cleaning and maintenance, and replacement parts can be costly and difficult to obtain. They are also not easy to travel with—machines are bulky and require an electrical source to operate. Thankfully, we have other solutions available to treat many cases of obstructive sleep apnea. If you’ve been diagnosed with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, consider visiting our Toronto Canada Dental Practice.
How can we help treat your sleep apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea can be treated through oral appliance therapy. Our team is trained and equipped to provide you with a comfortable, convenient alternative to a CPAP machine. Oral appliance therapy, or OAT, can improve your health and quality of life just as significantly as other sleep apnea treatments. There are two main types of oral appliances used to prevent obstructive sleep apnea, and our dentists will work closely with you to determine which is right for you. Mandibular advancing devices are made of molded hard plastic and snap over your lower and upper teeth. These devices work by repositioning your lower jaw forward and slightly downward, effectively keeping your airway open while you sleep. Tongue retaining devices consist of a soft plastic splint placed around your tongue that holds it forward. By holding your tongue in place, the device can effectively prevent it from blocking your airway.
OAT can significantly improve the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, including moodiness, concentration issues, and daytime sleepiness. These devices can also help eliminate or reduce snoring, allowing patients and their partners to enjoy a better night’s sleep. Plus, dental oral appliances are quieter and more comfortable than other breathing devices. They also offer the advantage of being much easier to take with you while traveling and don’t require an electrical outlet.
Oral appliances treat obstructive sleep apnea effectively when fitted by a dentist who has training in treating sleep apnea. Our dentists are a critical component of the medical team in diagnosis, treatment, and continuing care. We will determine the correct appliance for obstructive sleep apnea treatment and fit your custom-crafted piece for a comfortable and effective treatment. But getting fit for your appliance is only one part of OAT. Over a period of time, our dentists will work to evaluate and adjust your treatment as needed by carefully monitoring the response of your teeth and jaws. On-going care is critical in ensuring your appliance works correctly and provides you with maximum benefits.
Research shows that oral appliance therapy is a viable, effective alternative to CPAP in most cases of obstructive sleep apnea. Plus, OAT is comfortable and easy enough to be used every night, no matter where you are. Many CPAP users skip nights of use simply because of the hassle and discomfort. While both options are effective ways of treating OSA, the choice you are more likely to comply with is the best course of treatment.
For patients who require PAP therapy, especially at very high pressures, using OAT in conjunction with a CPAP machine to treat obstructive sleep apnea is also sometimes advised. With an oral appliance keeping the jaw from falling backward during sleep and closing the airway, the PAP pressure can be reduced. The resulting lower pressure can make a significant difference in the comfort of using a CPAP machine.