People snoring or making funny sounds in their sleep can either be a cause of amusement, frustration or worry. In many cases, it may just be the result of a cold or a minor blockage. However, it could also be a sign of sleep apnea, which is a condition that can cause many serious problems if left untreated.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relax and narrow too much. When this happens, breathing becomes much shallower, which can result in sleep disturbances. This behavior has been named obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) because it usually presents itself in the form of loud snoring, snorting, or gasping for breath during sleep.
This disorder can affect anyone, regardless of their age, and indicate underlying conditions. For example, sleep apnea in children may be a sign of tonsil problems.
The risk of sleep apnea in adults increases if they:
- Are overweight
- Drink alcohol and smoke
- Take certain medicines with sedative effects
- Have a family history of sleep apnea
When OSA occurs regularly, it can cause problems with your ability to function effectively throughout the day. Examples of this include excessive tiredness, irritability, morning headaches, and forgetfulness.
This is why it is important to get a prompt diagnosis if you suspect that you or a family member are suffering from OSA.
Why Would I Go to a Dentist for Help with My Breathing?
Your dentist might not be the first person you think of calling if you have problems with OSA. However, in recent years, dentistry has played an increasing role in the fight against this troublesome condition. Your dentist will usually work alongside other members of the medical profession to find the ideal solution for you.
In all cases of OSA, it is recommended that lifestyle changes form a major part of the treatment. This can include:
- Changes in sleep position
- Stopping smoking and drinking alcohol
- Losing weight
- Using dental appliances
The first three methods can be planned and coordinated with your family doctor. The final option is where dentistry has made great strides in the treatment of OSA.
In the past, the first method for treating OSA would be to use continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) therapy. This form of treatment involves using sleeping masks that continually increase the pressure in your airways throughout the night. This system is ideal for people that suffer from severe OSA, but they can be costly, noisy, and less comfortable.
The easiest and most cost-effective way to manage OSA is to use oral appliance therapy. This involves using an appliance that looks like a sport’s gum shield.
You put the appliance on before going to bed so that while you are sleeping, your jaw is held in an open position. This allows you to breathe more easily throughout the night.
These appliances are much cheaper than sleeping masks and can be custom made for you by your dentist. Also, they are much more portable, making life much easier for you wherever you are.
What Are My Options?
Whatever problems you may be having with OSA, we recommend contacting us today to see how we can best assist you going forward.