Sleep disorders are surprisingly common and can have serious consequences. One of the most frequently experienced in the United States is obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where the throat muscles relax and block the airway while someone is asleep. This obstruction causes a variety of symptoms but can lead to death in serious cases.
Something many don’t realize is how some dentists are trained to assist patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Through a treatment called oral appliance therapy, a skilled dentist can help an individual sleep comfortably and alleviate symptoms, including whether or not the airway is blocked during sleep.
What Is Oral Appliance Therapy?
Oral appliance therapy is when a dentist takes a mold of the mouth and crafts an oral appliance, a small device meant to sit in the mouth while a patient is asleep. The dental appliance for sleep apnea adjusts the alignment of the jaws so that when the throat muscles intermittently relax, they do not block the airway.
Sleep apnea appliances come in a variety of materials designed to change how hard the object is. Patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea might be given a hard appliance with little resistance, for example, to ensure the chance of blockage is reduced. Part of sleep apnea dentistry will be determining how much assistance is necessary for successful treatment.
Oral appliance therapy is frequently done in combination with regular jaw exercises. These exercises are intended to strengthen the muscles to reduce sleep apnea episodes. The therapy is also meant to be performed with regular treatment from a physician, who can help isolate the root of the condition and prescribe further treatment and medication.
What Are the Causes of Sleep Apnea?
Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea, but there are a couple of personal factors that can affect your chances. In particular, being overweight is one of the most common causes of obstructive sleep apnea, as the extra weight and fat around the throat can push the muscles, cause relaxation, and lead to obstruction.
Medical conditions are another cause for concern. Patients who suffer from hypothyroidism, polycystic ovaries, high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, and asthma also have greater chances of developing sleep apnea.
Finally, some basic character traits have a correlation with the condition. Patients who are regular smokers of any substance, who have chronic sinus congestion, who have naturally narrow airways, or who have a genetic predisposition for the condition are more likely to have sleep apnea. Likewise, men are twice as likely as premenopausal women to develop it.
How to Receive Dental Sleep Apnea Treatment
Patients interested in sleep apnea dentistry first need to receive a medical diagnosis from a physician. Dentists are not qualified to diagnose the problem, and patients cannot receive treatment without a proper exam and consultation from their physician. After the diagnosis is received, a patient can schedule an appointment with a sleep apnea dentist near them.
One of the greatest problems patients face is being unfamiliar with the symptoms of the condition and not knowing when to seek a diagnosis. Because many of the symptoms can be associated with other conditions, and the obstruction occurs during one’s sleep, people often mistake symptoms for other disorders.
An individual who has sleep apnea will typically experience a variety of the following symptoms:
- Increased sleepiness and drowsiness during the day
- Headaches localized around the temples
- Decreased libido
- Waking with a dry mouth
- Waking with a sore throat
- Episodes where you awaken choking or gasping
- Waking up suddenly in the night
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood changes
- Observed instances where a partner witnesses the choking
- Loud snoring
Having one symptom is usually not enough to diagnose sleep apnea, so discuss all concerns with a physician.
Sleep Apnea in Sugar Land, TX
Individuals seeking treatment for sleep apnea in Sugar Land, TX can contact Colony Dental today to work with a dentist skilled in oral appliance therapy. In addition to this treatment, patients can also work on snoring therapy to handle the symptoms of the condition as well. For more information, schedule an appointment today.