One of the first indications that you might have sleep apnea is snoring. Snoring is caused by a partially collapsed airway that vibrates as you struggle to breathe when you're asleep. If your airway becomes so relaxed that it collapses completely, then your doctor may diagnose you with sleep apnea. The only way to know for sure what happens when you sleep is to have a sleep study done. Here is some information about sleep apnea and how a dentist can help treat it.
What Causes Sleep Apnea
There are a couple of types of sleep apnea. The most common is obstructive sleep apnea. This is the kind that occurs along with snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea can have different causes. It might be due to obesity or excess tissue in your nose or throat area. The result is that your airway is narrow or compressed, so when you relax into a deep sleep, your airway relaxes too and becomes so narrow that noise is created when air passes through it.
Your airway can collapse completely several times each night when you sleep. This robs you of deep sleep, and the lack of oxygenation that goes along with sleep apnea affects your cardiovascular system. Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that needs treatment, and your dentist may be able to help. The other type of apnea is caused by neurological problems that cause you to breathe irregularly or stop breathing for short periods. This is different from obstructive sleep apnea and it is treated differently.
How Your Dentist Treats Sleep Apnea
When your doctor suspects you have sleep apnea, you'll have a sleep study done that monitors how you sleep at night. This study reveals how often you stop breathing and if the cause is obstructive or neurological. It also shows how dangerous your condition is since your vital signs and oxygen levels are monitored the whole time. Once your doctor has all of this information, he or she will decide on the most appropriate treatment.
If an oral appliance is suitable, the doctor will give you a prescription to take to a sleep apnea dentist at an office like Copley Dental Associates. You'll need to find a dentist who is qualified to treat you because not every dentist has been trained in sleep apnea dentistry.
A dentist treats sleep apnea by making a custom oral appliance for you to wear while you sleep at night. There are different styles, but the goal is to wear the appliance so your lower jaw is held forward while you sleep. Keeping the jaw in a forward position is often enough to keep your airway open so you stop snoring and breathe freely all night long. If an oral appliance is suitable for you, you'll find that it's easy and convenient to use, especially if you travel a lot. Once you've received your oral appliance, your doctor may want to repeat the sleep study with you wearing it to ensure it works as it should.
An oral device is just one possible treatment for sleep apnea. Your doctor may prefer you to wear a CPAP machine or even have surgery to get the best results. Since obesity is the leading cause of obstructive sleep apnea, you may be encouraged to lose weight as well in order to improve your condition.