Apnea and Dentistry
Sleep apnea, the cessation of breathing
during sleep, is a common problem that affects both adults and
children. Certain sleep apnea types can be treated by your
dentist or oral surgeon. Your
doctor may also be a part of the diagnosis and treatment.
Institutes of Health estimate that more than 12 million
Americans have sleep apnea, most often undetected or
misdiagnosed. In fact, conservative estimates suggest that only
16 percent of sleep apnea sufferers receive treatment.
sleep apnea affects your well-being. Sleep apnea may contribute
to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and erectile
dysfunction, as well as to memory and concentration impairment.
Since sleep apnea reduces the quality of your sleep and
contributes to daytime sleepiness, driving becomes more
dangerous. In fact, sleep apnea is a leading cause of car
Types of Sleep Apnea
occurs in three forms:
Obstructive sleep apnea is an airway blockage caused by a
genetic abnormality such as excessive tissue in the back of
the tongue, throat or nose.
sleep apnea results when the brain fails to send proper
signals to muscles responsible for breathing.
sleep apnea (also called complex sleep apnea) is diagnosed
when both central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea
may be able to correct obstructive sleep apnea by fitting you
with a dental appliance that is worn during the night. If your
sleep apnea is caused by the tongue resting on the airway, a
tongue-retaining device can correct the problem. Sleep apnea
caused by the incorrect positioning of the jaw may be treated
with a device inserted into the mouth or strapped around the
head to adjust the jaw's positioning. Dental devices worn inside
the mouth to treat sleep apnea look like athletic mouth guards.
They are removable and worn only at night.
If sleep apnea is caused by excess tissue
growth on the tongue or in the back of the throat, the
overgrowth may be surgically removed to resolve the blockage.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons and ear, nose and throat (ENT)
doctors are experienced in performing such operations. However,
dental professionals trained in
laser dentistry also may perform the
Sleep Apnea Signs and Symptoms
may be aware that your sleep is disturbed, more likely your
symptoms will be noticed first by family members. The two most
commonly identified sleep apnea symptoms are:
for air or choking during sleep.
inability to breathe properly often results in sudden
awakenings throughout the night that interrupt your sleep
and prevent you from feeling refreshed throughout the day.
As a result, you might find yourself struggling to stay
awake during the day or feeling irritable and depressed.
that you may be experiencing sleep apnea include:
and inexplicable headaches in the morning.
with a sore throat or dry mouth.
problems and difficulty concentrating.
frequently throughout the night.
important to note that the presence of one or more of these
signs and symptoms does not confirm that you have sleep apnea.
You may be a heavy snorer or urinate frequently throughout the
night for reasons other than sleep apnea. To be sure of your
diagnosis, consult with your dentist or doctor to undergo