Do you suffer from sleep apnea? A dental device is an effective and non-obtrusive alternative to CPAP machines.
Sleep disorders affect over 40% of Canadians. In fact, some people are not even aware that they have sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea is a disorder in which one’s breathing is interrupted while they are sleeping. Some people are more at risk for sleep apnea than others—including men, people who are overweight and people over 40 years of age.
Depending on the severity of a person’s sleep apnea, they may have their sleep interrupted hundreds of times in one night. This means that there is not enough oxygen getting to their body, more importantly to their brain, and this can have dire consequences such as falling asleep at work or behind the wheel. If you suspect that you or someone you know has sleep apnea, it’s wise to make an appointment with a professional to diagnose it and treat it.
Sufferers of central sleep apnea occasionally have issues breathing, but the real trouble lies in their inability to inhale properly and this is due to a collapsed airway. Sometimes this means that there are frequent periods where the person isn’t breathing at all—or the breath is too shallow for oxygen to adequately be consumed. This lack of oxygen is usually what causes people to wake up briefly, several times in the night.
A different way of looking at it is that the brain doesn’t send adequate signals to the muscles that control your breathing while you are sleeping—so throughout sleep, breathing becomes intermittent.
Because this condition is more complicated, it can be hard to diagnose. In addition to giving performing a physical examination, your doctor might request a polysomnogram, which is an overnight sleep-study, wherein tests are performed under the supervision of a trained specialist. These tests record brain waves, blood-oxygen levels, heart rate and breathing and muscle activity, among many other things. At the end of the study, the specialist will use the data collected during the test to measure the severity of the sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea causes people to stop breathing while sleeping. This episode can last for up to 10 seconds because the muscles in the back of your throat literally prevent your airways from opening.
Women and men of any age can have obstructive sleep apnea but there are certain factors that will increase the chances of getting it such as large tonsils, small airways at the back of your throat, a large uvula, large tongue, small jaws, large neck circumference, hypertension and obesity. People who drink or smoke excessively are also at risk. If you are wondering whether or not you have obstructive sleep apnea, one obvious clue is if you snore—it’s one of obstructive sleep apnea’s biggest indicators.
As with central sleep apnea, a polysomnography (sleep-study) is conducted and results are evaluated in order to diagnose the severity of obstructive sleep apnea.
Both types of sleep apnea share the same symptoms so it’s difficult to determine which type one has by symptoms alone. The most common symptoms that sleep apnea patients suffer from are:
If your sleep apnea is a result of another condition, such as congestive heart failure or diabetes, then treatment plans will be customized according to each person’s condition. Treatment also depends on which type of sleep apnea you have. However, there are some conventional treatment methods that are often suggested for managing either type of sleep apnea conditions. They include:
The continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP machine) is one of the most common treatment methods for both obstructive and central sleep apnea. The machine pushes air into a person’s airways through a mask which is placed on the person’s nose and tightened with straps behind the head.
The CPAP machine allows for better breathing because it keeps the airwaves open, reducing episodes of apnea. It can also ease snoring, improve sleep quality and lower blood pressure, among other things. The intensity and pressure with which the air is pushed through is adjustable based on data from the sleep-study. It can be modified if there is a change in the patient’s progress or condition.
The CPAP Machine has been used for years now, and although it can usually decrease symptoms over time, many people have a hard time getting used to it due to its bulkiness and the fact that it’s affixed to the face. Some find the CPAP so uncomfortable in fact, that they are actually unable to sleep—thus defeating the purpose of the CPAP machine in the first place.
However, much has changed in terms of sleep disorder treatment technology in the past few years and now there are alternative solutions for patients who find the CPAP machine intolerable.
Your dentist can fit you with an oral dental-appliance that will replace your cumbersome CPAP machine. These appliances, similar to those that athletes wear, are custom-fitted for the patient to wear at night. Due to the structure of the appliance, it helps push the jaw forward, which makes it possible to breathe better. Some less common oral devices are used to hold the tongue in place in order to keep the airway open—the type of device used depends on the details of one’s condition.
Along with improved sleep, the oral appliances can also help with the emotional and medical problems that accompany sleep apnea. Instead of forcing you to breathe, as a CPAP machine does, a dental appliance will allow you to breathe easier as it helps your jaw move forward gently and effectively. Custom-made dental appliances have had remarkable results and are extremely comfortable.
It’s important to see a doctor at the very first onset of sleep apnea symptoms. If your apnea is mild, there are many options to treat your condition, but if your condition is more severe, it’s important you schedule an appointment.
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