If you frequently snore or find your sleep to be frequently interrupted, you could be experiencing a serious disorder known as sleep apnea. The condition is marked by an obstruction in the airway which results in shallow breathing or halts your breathing. The stoppages are followed by gasps, snorts, or choking sounds because the body is trying to resume its breathing. For some people, pauses in breathing can last several seconds and up to several minutes. These disruptions can happen as frequently as 30 times an hour.
If you experience acute jaw pain, that may be another sign of sleep apnea. There are instances where the jaw clenches down to prevent the blockage of your airway before an apnea episode. This response can lead to sore gums and teeth as well as jaw, neck, and shoulder tension.
If untreated, there are serious health consequences of sleep apnea including the elevated risk of stroke, heart attacks, diabetes, and depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleep apnea is also linked to obesity.
Sleep disorder professionals recommend that if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms to get a sleep study to properly assess the severity of the condition. Meantime, dental professionals recommend a visit to your dentist for a consultation.
YOUR DENTIST CAN HELP
According to the American Dental Association, “dentists are the only health care provider with the knowledge and expertise to provide oral appliance therapy.” These appliances often relieve symptoms of sleep apnea without the need of more expensive and bulkier sleep apnea treatments.
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is a device called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). It blows a steady stream of air through a mask that you wear when you sleep. But for many people it’s uncomfortable.
At Advanced Smile Care, we can make a dental device that can also help treat the condition. It’s a retainer that looks similar to a mouth-guard used by athletes. It’s placed on the top and lower part of your teeth. The retainer fits into the patient’s mouth to push the jaw and tongue forward in order to allow normal breathing for the patient while they’re asleep.
“So for people who do have diagnosed sleep apnea and can’t tolerate a CPAP, we have this other appliance you can use and people are usually much happier with it because it’s less bulky, it’s easier to travel with, and obviously, breathing and sleeping is important,” said Dr. Laura Benjamin of Advanced Smile Care.
There are retainers available at your local pharmacy to treat sleep apnea, but we feel they are not especially effective. Our practice can customize your dental device to make sure it perfectly fits your mouth.
The American Dental Association says, in some cases, upper airway surgery is an option to treat sleep apnea. It depends on the severity of your condition and where the airway obstruction is occurring in your body. The procedure may require a surgeon to remove the tonsils or parts of the throat.