Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that causes you to stop breathing while asleep. These episodes can last for as little as ten seconds or as long as several minutes, and they can occur dozens of times per hour. Sleep apnea is a serious condition; not only can it cause you to snore loudly during the night, but it can also cause you to “choke” or gasp for air. Ultimately, someone who suffers from sleep apnea is not getting the quality of sleep that they need, resulting in fatigue, headaches, and irritability. Sleep apnea can also cause dry mouth, which promotes the growth of bacteria and can lead to a number of serious dental and oral health issues including gingivitis and gum disease.
One of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea is loud, inconsistent snoring as your body tries to breathe while you are asleep. Snoring can go undetected for weeks or months at a time, unless if it reported by a loved one or other person affected by the snoring. There are two types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your throat muscles relax while sleeping, narrowing your airway and preventing oxygen from reaching your bloodstream. Your brain will sense this and trigger a “wake-up call,” which is often in the form of a choke or gasp for air. It can also cause loud snoring as you struggle to gain as much air as you can.
Central sleep apnea occurs when the signal from your brain to your breathing muscles fails, resulting in a poor quality of sleep.
Prolonged sleep apnea can have a negative impact on your overall health, and specifically on your oral health. Those who suffer from sleep apnea can rarely breathe through their nose. Breathing through your mouth can cause dry mouth, which increases the presence of bacteria, causing gum disease and bad breath. For those who suffer from sleep apnea, it is important to find a solution that works for you before it takes its toll on your overall health.
There is a wide range of factors that can increase your likelihood of suffering from sleep apnea. By identifying which risk factors may be causing your sleep apnea, you can work towards a solution:
Sleep apnea is often correlated with obesity. Fat deposits around your airway, neck, and throat can make it difficult for you to breathe while asleep, especially if you are not in the ideal sleeping position.
Enlarged or inflamed tonsils can narrow your throat and block your airway, which is why people often snore more loudly and consistently when suffering from a cold. This is also a common cause of sleep apnea in children.
Alcohol & Smoking
Consuming alcohol and cigarettes are two substances that are proven to increase your likelihood of sleep apnea, as they relax the muscles in your neck and throat which can further narrow your airway — especially if consumed immediately before going to sleep. In fact, smokers are as much as three times more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
Nasal Congestion & Allergies
Allergies and the common cold cause significant nasal congestion, which can lead to sleep apnea. Whenever your breathing is compromised, you are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
Age & Gender
Statistically, sleep apnea is much more likely to occur in males, who are two-to-three more times likely to suffer from the condition, compared to females. Age also plays a significant factor, as more people seem to develop consistent sleep apnea later on in life.
There are a number of symptoms that present in sleep apnea cases:
Consistent, loud snoring that occurs throughout the night and over long periods of time
Pauses in breathing while sleeping
Choking, snorting, or gasping for air while sleeping
Increased fatigue, sleepiness, and irritability throughout the day
Heachaches, memory loss, and a decrease in sex drive
High blood pressure
Excessive snoring can have a dramatic impact on your daily health. Sleep apnea virtually guarantees that you are not getting a high-quality sleep, which can lead to a number of symptoms. Fortunately, there are several solutions and treatment options for those who suffer from sleep apnea:
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
CPAP machines are a must-have appliance for many who suffer from sleep apnea. The device includes a mask or nasal input that fits over your face. This device is connected to an air pump, which consistently creates pressure through your airway and keeps your throat muscles engaged. While it is an effective treatment option, CPAP machines can be bulky, inconvenient, uncomfortable, and impractical when you are travelling, camping, or otherwise disconnected from electricity.
An alternative to the bulky CPAP machine, oral appliances help to position your jaw tongue, and uvula so they rest in a forward position, promoting air flow through your airway. Most oral appliances look and feel like a mouth guard, and they simply slip into place thanks to custom form-fitted designs. Not only is it comfortable and convenient, but it can have dramatic results in preventing sleep apnea.
For those who suffer from significant sleep apnea and resulting insomnia, surgery may be the only effective way to prevent a recurrence. However, surgery is considered a last resort.
At Guelph Family Dentistry, we offer custom, form-fitted oral appliances designed to combat sleep apnea and help you feel rested. These devices will not restrict your movement, and they are much more versatile than bulky machines and breathing masks. Our dental professionals will work with you to identify the cause of your sleep apnea and address it accordingly. As a family-oriented practice, we pride ourselves on our dedication to your health.