Many people experience sleep apnea, and more often than not, experience sleep apnea without ever realizing it. Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder, affecting over 18 million Americans. There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding sleep apnea, and one of these is the fact that a dentist can help with treatment.

In today’s blog, we’ll dive into sleep apnea, its symptoms, and how your dentist can help treat it. The dentists at Frederick Smiles Dental Care are here to help you with treating this sleep disorder, as well as providing general and cosmetic dentistry services. We were voted as the best dentists in Frederick and Germantown, and when you come into our dental clinic, you’ll see why. Learn more about sleep apnea, and contact our office to get in touch with our sleep apnea dentists.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that involves a person’s breathing being interrupted during sleep. This might not sound like a big deal, but sleep apnea is a pretty serious condition. When a person experiences sleep apnea, this involves their breathing to repeatedly stop while they’re asleep, which stops the flow of oxygen to the brain and to the body as a whole.

There are two types of sleep apnea The first is Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in which a blockage is occurring in the airway. This is the most common form of sleep apnea, and is marked by the collapsing of soft tissue in the back of the throat. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is rarer, and is not caused by a physical obstruction to breathing. With CSA, WebMD reports that “Unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, due to instability in the respiratory control center.”

Who can get sleep apnea?

Truthfully, anyone could be affected by sleep apnea, at any age or time. With this in mind, there are several indicators that increase the risk of developing sleep apnea. Some of these factors include being overweight, over the age of 40, having tonsils and/or a tongue that are larger, and nasal obstruction (such as a deviated septum, allergies, and other sinus problems). Sleep apnea occurs more frequently in men than women. Additionally, having a neck that is larger also serves as a risk factor for sleep apnea.

What are the symptoms?

The biggest thing to remember with sleep apnea is noticing a pattern. Take a look at some of these symptoms associated with sleep apnea:

  • Waking up with a sore or dry throat
  • Snoring loudly
  • Waking up suddenly, gasping and/or feeling like you’re choking
  • Feeling tired throughout the day (even after getting hours of sleep)
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Forgetfulness, mood changes

As previously mentioned, pattern is key with these symptoms. Waking up on a random day with a sore throat is not an immediate indicator that you have sleep apnea (having a common cold is far more likely). But if these symptoms persist over time, you should consider consulting with a doctor—especially if you fit the risk factor criteria.

Why does sleep apnea require treatment?

In the simplest terms possible, your brain needs oxygen to survive, and having the oxygen supply cut off is dangerous. More specifically, sleep apnea can lead to higher blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, depression, heart attacks, and even death. If you think you have sleep apnea, it is super critical to get it treated as soon as possible.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

Since sleep apnea occurs when you’re asleep, the best way to diagnose it is by being tested for it in your sleep. A doctor might order a polysomnogram for you, which is a test that can check for sleep apnea, and can be completed either in a sleep study at a clinic, or at home. Electrodes and monitors will be hooked up to you as a means of recording various sleep functions, and while it may look slightly intimidating, most people fall asleep without any problems.

I have sleep apnea, now what?

As scary as it might seem to be diagnosed with sleep apnea, you and your doctors figured something out, and that knowledge can potentially save your life! Many doctors will recommend losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, as this can be one of the best factors to not only combat sleep apnea, but to also work against heart-related disease, risk of stroke and more.

Getting to a healthy weight is a process, and for some people with sleep apnea, weight and age might not even be a factor in why they experience this sleep disorder. Because of this, you very well might need a treatment option that is more immediate. Fortunately, the dentists at Frederick Smiles Dental Care can help.

We can help you get set up with an oral appliance that acts as a sleep apnea mouthguard. We can fit this sleep apnea mouthguard to your jaw, which is then something you wear before falling asleep. This works in several ways, such as repositioning the lower jaw and soft palate, stabilizing the lower jaw, and also increasing the muscle tone of the tongue. In these three ways, your airway can remain unobstructed during sleep, and your brain can get all the oxygen it needs to be healthy. Call it an oxyg-win-win!

A sleep apnea mouthguard is the perfect way to get your sleep (and your life itself) back on track. Schedule your next visit with the sleep apnea dentists at Frederick Smiles Dental Care!