Sleep apnea, (also known as obstructive sleep apnea), is a common disorder that affects more than 18 million people in the U.S. Yet, less than 10% have been diagnosed. People with sleep apnea literally stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, often for a minute or longer.
If not treated, sleep apnea can cause driving and work-related accidents, depression, memory loss, impaired concentration, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. More studies are showing a correlation between sleep apnea and attention deficit disorder (ADD).
While dentists don’t diagnose sleep apnea, (diagnosis should be done at an accredited sleep center), more and more we are screening for some of the symptoms and developing treatment options.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- Do you regularly have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep?
- Do people tell you that you snore?
- Has anyone ever told you that you have pauses in breathing or that you gasp for breath when you sleep?
- Are you so tired when you wake up in the morning that you cannot function normally during the day?
- Does sleepiness and fatigue persist for more than two to three weeks?
The standard treatment for those with sleep apnea is called CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), but 25% to 50% of sleep apnea patients do not comply with or tolerate using the equipment.
For those patients, oral appliances may be used to reposition the tongue and lower jaw forward during sleep to maintain an open airway. Usually, oral appliances are recommended for mild to moderate sleep apnea patients, but can be used in severe cases with patients who cannot tolerate CPAP. Some recent studies show oral appliances to be the most effective in treating snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.
If you have sleep apnea or think you might, talk with us about whether an appliance could be right for you. A good night’s sleep may be more than just a dream come true. It could save your life.