Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that involves a cessation of breathing for at least 10 seconds or longer at a time. This can happen anywhere from 5-30 times an hour. These episodes lead to a significant decrease in traveling oxygen throughout the body. The cause is a repetitive collapse or blockage of the pharyngeal airway at night while you are sleeping. This decrease of oxygenated blood has been shown to be a cause of high blood pressure which can lead to a stroke or heart attack. Low oxygen also affects the production of insulin, encouraging the onset of Type II Diabetes.
Some common signs of sleep apnea are daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, and awakening from sleep gasping or choking. Misdiagnosed signs are depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, ADHD, GERD, and even migraines.
Dentists are able to screen for sleep apnea very easily. They look for intraoral signs such as anterior teeth wear, a scalloped and enlarged tongue, abnormal enlargement of the tonsils with edema and erythema of the soft palate, and signs of mouth breathing.
However, sleep apnea is ultimately diagnosed using polysomnography (PSG) during an overnight sleep study. A sleep technician will measure your breathing, respiratory efforts, blood oxygen saturation, and body function. Your study will be scored as either normal, mild, moderate, or severe sleep apnea depending on the number of apneas per hour of sleep.
The gold standard for treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea has long been Continuous Positive Pressure Airway (CPAP). This is a type of mask worn that directs the flow of pressurized air through the nasal passages and upper airway and then into the lungs. Not all patients are “CPAP compliant”. This is where your dentist can be most helpful. Dentists who have been properly trained can make customized oral appliances patients can wear comfortably when sleeping. These appliances pull the lower jaw forward allowing the tongue to be moved away from the upper airway and therefore increase the amount of volume available.
For more facts about sleep apnea or to schedule a consultation appointment, call Dr. Urban today at 732-458-8200. We look forward to helping you regain your sleep!