Do you regularly wake up from your sleep gasping for breath? Do you wake up in the morning feeling tired? Do you just doze off randomly during the daytime? Do you snore loudly?
If your answer to all these questions is yes, you may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a life-threatening illness that hinders natural breathing while sleeping. It is a common sleep disorder that often goes untreated. Sleep apnea is caused by the blockage of the airway when tissue behind the throat collapses. This leads to loud snoring and even breathing stoppage for a short period of time. With less oxygen circulating throughout the body, a person will suddenly wake up. This happens so quickly that the person may not be even aware of it. If this happens several times during the night, the person will wake up feeling very tired.
Sleep apnea also has other ill effects like memory loss, headache, lack of concentration, bad temper, depression, and loss of sexual appetite. It can also lead to other health complications, such as hypertension, congestive heart failure, heart attack, and increased risk of stroke. People with sleep apnea are also prone to workplace or driving accidents because they fall asleep without warning.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
People who are overweight, have thick necks, and are older are most susceptible to sleep apnea. If you fall into this category and you exhibit any of the symptoms mentioned, it is important that you schedule an appointment with your physician immediately.
Your doctor will conduct a test known as a polysomnogram. It is an overnight sleep examination to monitor your breathing, heartbeat, brain waves, and movement of the arms and legs while sleeping. Aside from establishing that you are suffering from this sleep disorder, your physician will also identify other circumstances that have similar symptoms to sleep apnea or conditions that could further aggravate sleep apnea. He may also ask you to keep a two-week diary of your sleeping pattern for him to understand if there is a pattern of apnea symptoms that manifest on a regular basis. Once he has fully determined that you are suffering from this sleep disorder, he will refer you to a dental specialist for further treatment.
The Dentist’s Role in Treating Sleep Apnea
Once a board certified sleep medicine practitioner issues his diagnosis, a dentist with oral appliance therapy experience will take over the treatment and follow-up. A thorough examination, which may last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, will be conducted to determine what specific oral appliance will help in treating your sleep disorder. This process will include fitting of the appliance, optimal adaptation to the appliance usage, and overall functionality.
Although the treatment may take a long time, the use of oral appliances is considered the best way to treat sleep apnea. It helps in strengthening the tongue muscle, evening out the tongue and the lower jaw, and properly positioning the uvula, soft palate, tongue, and lower jaw. Furthermore, oral appliances are non-invasive, handy, and convenient to use. In no time, you will get used to wearing one when you are sleeping.