If you have sleep apnea, you’re not alone: 50-70 million adults in the US have some form of the condition. Snoring is the most common symptom of sleep apnea, although you may also experience other symptoms like daytime drowsiness.
The typical treatment for sleep apnea is called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP.) This device requires you to wear a mask over your face while you sleep and blows air into your lungs to keep the airway open. It’s very effective when used properly, but a lot of people don’t wear it as they’re instructed. Dr. Thomas D. Sokoly of Sokoly Dental explains more about dental alternatives to CPAP for treating sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
There are two forms of sleep apnea: central and obstructive.
OSA is far more common. In this condition, your airways temporarily close while you’re sleeping as folds of tissue in the back of your throat or your tongue block the pathway. Your brain startles you awake, and you gasp for breath, causing the typical sound of snoring.
Central sleep apnea is not as common as OSA. With central sleep apnea, your brain doesn’t send the signals to your muscles to keep breathing throughout the night. It can also occur as a result of heart failure or a stroke.
The symptoms of sleep apnea
Usually, sleep apnea is diagnosed by a sleep study. These can be performed in the office of a sleep specialist overnight, or you can wear a monitor at home.
However, you can have a pretty good idea that you have sleep apnea if you have the following symptoms:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Someone else observing you having episodes in which you stop breathing
- Waking up with a sore or dry throat
- Waking up abruptly by choking or gasping
- Headaches in the morning
- Difficulty with focus or concentration
- High blood pressure
- Lower libido
- Mood changes, like irritability or depression
The more of these symptoms you have, the more likely it is you have sleep apnea.
The dangers of untreated sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is more than just an annoyance that keeps you and your partner from getting a good night’s sleep. If you don’t treat sleep apnea, it can lead to serious problems, including:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart muscle)
- Heart attacks
- Congestive heart failure
Untreated sleep apnea can also cause poor job performance, work-related accidents, and car accidents due to falling asleep behind the wheel.
How the dentist can help
If you have sleep apnea, you may think that you need to get fitted for a CPAP device. However, oral devices can work effectively to treat OSA, especially if your problem is mild or moderate.
Dental appliances, also called oral mandibular advancement devices, move your jaw forward and prevent your tongue from blocking your throat.
Mandibular advancement devices are made from molded hard plastic, which fit over your upper and lower teeth. They also feature metal screws and hinges. However, you need to be treated by a dentist like Dr. Sokoly, who is experienced in working with oral devices for sleep apnea.
If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, consult Dr. Thomas D. Sokoly at Sokoly Dental. Call him today at 202-280-2428, or schedule your appointment online.