What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common condition, characterized by loud snoring and breathing that stops and starts when you are sleeping. Not everybody who snores has sleep apnea, but if you or your partner are concerned, you can always talk to us at Smiles of Tulsa about it. Our dentists are experts in this area, and it may be that a simple dental appliance worn at night could be the solution to your snoring problem.
While people who snore loudly are often joked about, it is no laughing matter for the snorer or their bed partner. Sharing a bed with a loud snorer is frustrating, and it can be impossible to try to get a good night’s sleep. Similarly, snorers are often unaware they have a problem until it is pointed out to them, but they may have endured years of broken sleep and wonder why they often feel tired and worn-out despite going to bed early.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
There are a number of factors that may contribute to sleep apnea, but it is caused by the tongue and soft tissues in the airways relaxing and narrowing - identified by snoring as air vibrates over the tissues - until the airway is cut off and breathing momentarily ceases. The lack of oxygen will then wake the snorer, typically with a snort, and as they relax and fall back to sleep, the snoring will begin again, with the process continuing throughout the night.
It is linked to getting older and being overweight, but other issues may make it worse, including a blocked nose, smoking, alcohol, receding lower jaw, sleeping tablets or sedatives, sleeping on your back, and diseases, such as hypothyroidism.
The management of sleep apnea requires a multidisciplinary approach, but how do you even know you have it? If you sleep with someone, they will more than likely let you know. However, if you sleep alone, there are smartphone apps that record you while you sleep. You will be able to play the recording back the next day to give you a good overview of what your snoring and breathing sound like while you sleep.
If your snoring is caused because your tongue or jaw relaxes, falling back into your throat, there are intra-oral appliances available that may alleviate these problems. These are custom-made for each patient, designed to carefully fit in the mouth for comfort and effectiveness.
Known as mandibular repositioning devices (MRD), they are worn at night in the mouth, rather like orthodontic retainers. They fit around the upper and lower teeth to push the lower jaw forward and prevent the airways from becoming obstructed. As there are significant forces to the teeth and jaw in this treatment, you must have enough healthy back teeth to support the MRD and maintain a good oral hygiene regime to prevent tooth decay or gum disease from becoming an issue. While they may take a little getting used to, MRDs are very effective for many patients in managing snoring and sleep apnea symptoms.
Find out more about sleep apnea and how our dentists at Smiles of Tulsa can help. Call us at (918) 891-3059.