Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea affects about a million Americans. Most of them who get treatment by a doctor are prescribed CPAP, or continuous positive air pressure. This involves sleeping with a device that covers the mouth, nose, or both, and is attached by a hose to a machine that continually streams air. All of this is designed to keep the air passages wide open, so blockage does not cause the patient to stop breathing and wake up.

Though CPAP is complex, loud, cumbersome and uncomfortable, it works. But unfortunately, many sleep apnea sufferers find it so uncomfortable that they don’t use it, and continue to be interrupted when sleeping, often hundreds of times a night, by airway blockage. For these people, and anyone else who wants an easier method of sleep apnea treatment, there is an alternative: dental treatment with an oral appliance.

The dental treatment for sleep apnea involves a small, comfortable oral appliance that is similar to a mouthguard. It is custom made for each patient so that it fits precisely. The appliance positions the teeth and jaws correctly so that blockage in the back of the throat does not inhibit free breathing. It can also prevent the tongue from falling back, which is the cause of sleep apnea for many patients.

Many people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea don’t even know it. Usually, the periods of waking caused by stopped breathing are so brief that most people don’t realize they were awake. Typically a person with sleep apnea will wake up every morning thinking they slept all night. But they may feel tired, have difficulty concentrating during the day, have frequent headaches or be irritable for no apparent reason.

Sleep apnea can happen to anyone, but it is most common in men, middle aged people and people who are overweight. Snoring is one of the most obvious symptoms of sleep apnea. The sound of snoring is caused by air that is trying to pass through the blockage. The blockage is often tissue at the back of the throat.

Sometimes crooked teeth or a bad bite can contribute to the problem by not allowing the jaws to be positioned correctly for optimum free breathing. Correcting these dental problems could provide more permanent relief from obstructive sleep apnea than an oral appliance.

If you would like to learn more about sleep apnea and dental treatment options for it, call our Alexandria office now to set up an appointment with Dr. Jessica Hill. If you have already been diagnosed with sleep apnea or if you currently use CPAP but would like another treatment option, we can help. Sleep apnea can only be diagnosed by a medical doctor, but if you have symptoms without a diagnosis, Dr. Hill can refer you for diagnosis and then discuss dental treatment options.

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