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Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea using Oral Sleep Devices/Dental Appliances

Do you wake up feeling tired, irritable, or have trouble concentrating during the day? You might be one of the estimated 22 million Americans who suffer from sleep apnea and/or snoring. We know most people don’t like to admit they snore! While not everyone who snores has apnea, loud snoring can be a sign of a more serious condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The truth is, your snoring could be linked to more serious health risks like weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Plus it’s been shown that obstructive sleep apnea can take 10 to 15 years off a your life expectancy… and who wants that?

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, or a combination of the two called complex sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea – Have you ever been jolted awake in the middle of the night, feeling like you were gasping for air or choking? You may suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, a process by which the muscles in the back of your throat relax causing your airway to narrow or get blocked. Imagine a kink in a garden hose and now you get the picture! This kink in your airway deprives your body and brain of the oxygen it needs to restore and rejuvenate your body during the night, causing you to wake up after 8 hours of sleep, feeling like you only slept for 2 hours.

Central Sleep Apnea – This condition is central or related to the central nervous system. This is a result of the brain intermittently signaling the body to stop breathing for 10-30 second intervals. The apnea can even continue for several seconds after waking up. If this condition is diagnosed, a sleep physician and Neurologist will be involved in the treatment process.

Symptoms & signs of Sleep Apnea

Central and obstructive sleep apnea may share similar symptoms, but since their causes are different, their symptoms may also differ. A sleep test that monitors breathing and bodily functions can more accurately pinpoint which sleep disorder you are suffering from. Some signs and symptoms of sleep apnea may include:

• Daytime sleepiness and/or excessive rundown feeling
• Aggressive or overly loud snoring
• Frequent headaches in the morning
• Sudden disruption of sleep accompanied by shortness of breath
• Dry mouth or sore throat upon wakening

What is obstructive sleep apnea and its risks?

It is important to not only understand what obstructive sleep apnea is, but the risks your body may be taking while you sleep! When you sleep, the red blood cells carry oxygen to the brain, organs and body tissues to help prepare all systems for “go” the next day. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your airways become fully or partially blocked, preventing air from properly flowing to your lungs. If your sleep pattern is continually interrupted because your airway is being restricted, it can not only leave you feeling exhausted in the morning, but also allows carbon dioxide to build up in the blood stream and cause painful headaches.

In addition, as blood/oxygen levels drop due to lack of oxygen flow, your body can go into ‘fight or flight’ mode where large amounts of adrenaline are dumped into your system, resulting in increased blood pressure and heart rate (which is not good when you’re trying to sleep).

Adrenaline also makes your blood more likely to clot, which while you’re trying to sleep, can lead to clotting and inflammation in the blood vessels, making blocked arteries and heart disease significantly more likely.

The body also gets flooded with cortisol, a hormone that stimulates the appetite and increases blood sugar levels, which can lead to weight gain and diabetes.

If this process repeats night after night, it increases your risk of stroke, heart attack or heart failure. If left untreated, people with obstructive sleep apnea are more like to develop alzheimer’s and dementia as they age.

Sleep apnea, which can be life-threatening, ranges from mild to moderate to severe. The severity level of obstructive sleep apnea is determined by the number of pauses in breathing (or apnea events) each night.

  • Type I – experiencing 5-14 interruptions in breathing, for 10 seconds or longer, in the span of one hour.
  • Type II – experiencing 15-30 interruptions in breathing, for 10 seconds or longer, in the span of one hour.
  • Type III – experiencing 30+ interruptions in breathing, for 10 seconds or longer, in the span of one hour.

Solutions for obstructive sleep apnea

Treating sleep apnea will greatly improve your sleep/breathing health! You’ll discover you feel better almost immediately – you’ll be more alert, more productive, have more energy and have a better quality of life.

For many years the standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea has been CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) therapy. CPAP therapy involves wearing a face mask or nosepiece attached to a hose and machine, delivering continuous, steady air pressure to help keep your airways open while you sleep. While CPAP therapy is effective, the reality is that most people stop using the device after 1 year because of discomfort, hassle to clean and lack of portability. At RxSmile, we offer alternative solutions to CPAP therapy, providing oral sleep devices that are both effective and comfortable.

Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea with Oral Sleep Devices vs CPAP maskResearch shows that these FDA approved, custom-made, oral sleep devices are an effective treatment option for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. These dental appliances come in various shapes and forms, but their basic design is to keep the lower jaw and tongue from collapsing back and closing off the airway while you sleep. These oral sleep devices are worn in the mouth while you sleep, fitting much like a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. They fit into the mouth by snapping over the upper and lower dental arches and have metal hinges connecting the two pieces: one fits over the upper teeth, and the other fits over the lower teeth. Most devices are adjustable, allowing the orthodontist to fine-tune the position of the jaw for maximum effectiveness. Most people prefer an oral sleep device over a CPAP mask because it’s more comfortable to wear, quiet, portable and easy to care for.

Is an Oral Sleep Device/Dental Appliance right for you?

The first step to a better night’s sleep is to book an appointment for a thorough sleep screening to determine the type and severity level of your obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Greg Greenberg’s in-office, state-of-the-art, i-CAT FLX Cone Beam 3D Imaging System uses a cone-shaped beam to scan and capture a high-definition 3D full model of your mouth and airway passages. This higher level of detail allows measurement of sinus and airway passages in order to automatically compute the total airway volume, and view segmented areas of constriction to aid in the treatment planning of obstructive sleep apnea and other airway disorders. In a few seconds, our 3D Orthodontics imaging gives a safe diagnosis, with less radiation, while patients are seated in a comfortable, open-air environment.

After evaluating the 3D scan and sleep screening results, Dr. Greenberg may refer you to a certified sleep physician and recommend an at-home sleep test. An easy-to-use test kit will be mailed to your home (you are not required to go to a sleep clinic). This wearable, wireless device records and measures blood oxygen saturation, pulse rate, airflow, snoring levels, head movement and head position for up to 3 nights. The small size of this wireless sleep device allows it to be worn in all sleep positions. Upon completion of the test, simply mail the test kit back and the certified sleep physician will make his/her complete diagnosis. This testing and diagnosis process is traditionally covered by most medical insurance plans.

If an oral sleep device/dental appliance is the best solution to treat your sleep apnea or snoring problem, you will be referred back to RxSmile Orthodontics. Dr. Greenberg will accurately fit you for a customized oral sleep device that will be ready for pickup in a few short weeks. Some adjustments may be necessary along the way to ensure maximum, continued comfort and results. With continued use of your oral sleep device, you can experience a restful night’s sleep with less respiratory effort, less airway obstruction, and less snoring!

A word of caution, there are over-the-counter, one-size-fits-all oral appliance options, but Dr. Greenberg does not recommended these because they can actually complicate your sleep apnea. While the over-the-counter device may stop your snoring, if your snoring was a symptom of a bigger, underlying problem and you don’t get to the root of that problem, you can actually cause more serious issues down the road.

Did you know that 80 percent of Type II and Type III obstructive sleep apnea cases go undiagnosed? Don’t let that be you! Schedule an appointment with Dr. Greg Greenberg at RxSmile Orthodontics to evaluate your obstructive sleep apnea signs/symptoms and discuss practical, non-invasive solutions to improve your sleep/breathing health. Please call 972-335-1300 (Monday through Thursday) or submit an online appointment request and we will respond within one business day.

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