Sleep apnea is an extremely common medical condition that can result in a cessation of breathing while you sleep. The condition is often identified by loud snoring, chronic fatigue, and hypertension. This serious condition can have far-reaching effects on your quality of life if left untreated. Fortunately, orthodontics may be an unexpected and helpful treatment for your sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. The “apnea” in sleep apnea refers to a pause in breathing that lasts at least ten seconds. When the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, your breathing efforts begin to fail. For patients with sleep apnea, the combination of disturbed sleep and oxygen starvation may lead to hypertension, heart disease, and mood swings. More than 18 million American adults suffer from sleep apnea.
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and mixed sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of apnea and is caused by something blocking your airway or your child’s while asleep. Central sleep apnea is where the brain or nervous system causes the issues, and mixed sleep apnea is a combination of both kinds.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Good quality sleep is an essential part of functioning in your everyday life. Sleep apnea symptoms commonly include:
- Pauses in breathing while snoring
- Choking or gasping for breath while asleep
- Sore throat or dry mouth after waking up
- Tiredness during the day
- Regularly falling asleep when resting
- Headaches first thing in the morning
- Depression or mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping throughout the night
Sleep Apnea and Your Tongue
The tongue plays a distinct role in sleep apnea obstructions. Sleeping on the back causes the tongue to naturally fall downward due to gravity. This is seldom an issue with sufficient room in the mouth and at the back of the throat. However, when space is limited, the tongue can fall backwards, blocking the air passage. The lack of necessary air flow forces a patient to wake suddenly and frequently.
Sleep Apnea and Braces
Some causes of sleep apnea can be alleviated by treating the direct cause of your sleep apnea with braces. If a significant overbite is the cause of your sleep apnea, braces could be a helpful solution in reducing the overbite and eventually eliminating it altogether. In these cases, a gradual reduction in sleep apnea symptoms cease.
Benefits of Oral Appliances For Sleep Apnea
Oral appliances specially designed to help treat sleep apnea are very useful and may eliminate the need for a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device. For mild to moderate sleep apnea, oral appliance therapy offers many of the same benefits of a CPAP machine without any tubes or loud noises. By treating your sleep apnea, you can reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. In addition, daytime alertness, concentration, and emotional stability will also be improved due to achieving quality sleep.
Key benefits of oral appliances for sleep apnea include:
Small In Size. Unlike bulky CPAP machines, oral appliances are small enough to fit anywhere, making them the perfect travel accessory. Regardless of if you are sleeping in your own bed, or traveling to an unfamiliar destination, you will have peace of mind in knowing your sleep apnea won’t stand in your way.
Easy To Use. Many patients who suffer from sleep apnea prefer an oral appliance to a CPAP device because they are effortless to wear. It takes several weeks for most patients to become used to sleeping with an oral appliance in their mouth, but the long-term benefits are substantial.
How Your Orthodontist Can Help
The same examination for orthodontic therapy can be used to screen for potential sleep apnea patients. The oral devices for managing obstructive sleep apnea are repurposed orthodontic appliances. Orthodontic therapy in the child and adolescent can, in many patients, cure sleep apnea.
Call Thomas Orthodontics today to schedule a sleep apnea consultation appointment where we can discuss your orthodontic treatment options.