Adults need 7 or more hours of sleep each night to remain healthy. The quality of your sleep has a direct impact on your health, well-being and quality of life. Poor quality sleep because of issues such as obstructive sleep apnea can make you distracted and irritable and put you at a higher risk of other serious health problems such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression and stroke.
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing stops and starts several times each night. If you snore, snort or gasp in sleep, and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, chances are that you have sleep apnea. There are three types of sleep apnea- obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea syndrome. Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax. Over 25 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea. It is estimated that 26 percent of adults between the ages of 30 and 70 years suffer from this condition. If you think you have sleep apnea, see your dentist. Yes, your dentist can fix your sleep apnea.
How your dentist can help?
Your dentist can both diagnose and treat sleep apnea. To determine whether you suffer from sleep apnea, they will first carry out a Pharyngometer test. It is a non-invasive test that accurately measures the size and collapsibility of your airways. The test takes only a couple of minutes. If this test suggests you may have sleep apnea, your doctor may suggest a take-home sleep study that records your body’s biological parameters while sleeping. Once the results confirm the diagnosis, the dentist will recommend wearing oral appliances, which can ease symptoms in patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea.
Dental sleep devices, also known as Mandibular advancement devices are commonly used to treat symptoms of sleep apnea. These devices look like mouth guards. They push the lower jaw forward so that the muscles that collapse during apnea tighten and don’t fall down. These devices keep the airways open during sleep. The tongue is kept in such a position that it does not block the airway. This reduces the risk of snoring and of your tongue obstructing your airways. Over time, these devices make the airways stronger and this reduces or eliminates apnea.
These devices are made to measure. The dentist would assess your teeth, mouth and temporomandibular joints to determine whether you are a good candidate for an oral sleep device.
Once it is established that you can get a device, the dentist would create a model of your teeth and then create a device to fit your mouth perfectly. You just need to wear the device while sleeping to alleviate your symptoms.
Another option you have is a CPAP machine, which forces air through nasal and oral passages to prevent the soft tissues from collapsing. Compared to a custom oral device, a CPAP machine can be bulky and uncomfortable. It is best to discuss your options with your dentist and then make the right choice.
There are some oral sleep devices available over the counter as well, but they are definitely not as effective as the custom-made ones.
If you suffer from sleep apnea, speak to your dentist about a custom-fitted oral sleep device. It can make a huge difference to your sleep quality and also your overall quality of life.