Sleep apnea is a condition wherein the upper airways close during sleep, causing the patient to experience snoring, restless sleep, and breathing issues. More alarmingly, in some cases, sleep apnea can cause oxygen deprivation to the point that the patient experiences a stroke or heart attack. Therefore, if you suspect that you have sleep apnea, it is important to resolve the issue. You may be surprised to learn that, for some people, the solution may be found at a general dentist’s office.
An Alternative to CPAP
The traditional treatment for sleep apnea is using a CPAP machine. These machines are essentially small air pumps which gently force air into a sleeper’s nasal passages. This keeps the airways open, and helps the patient receive adequate oxygenation. However, many sleepers have trouble falling asleep with a CPAP mask on, resulting in fatigue and irritability the next day. One possible alternative is an oral appliance prescribed by a dentist which keeps the airways open.
Note that sleep apnea appliances are usually only beneficial for those with mild to moderate sleep apnea. Be sure to have a general practitioner or sleep specialist monitor whether or not the device is generating any improvement. While it’s doubtful that CPAP machines are going to lose their place as the gold standard of sleep apnea treatment any time soon, sleep apnea dental appliances have helped many people who this common condition.
Other Potential Sleep Apnea Treatments
- Lifestyle changes: In some cases, lifestyle changes may be able to help significantly alleviate your symptoms, or eliminate them altogether. Regular exercise can help ease the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, and even a slight weight loss might help relieve constriction of your throat. Smoking, alcohol use, and certain medications all exacerbate sleep apnea.
- Sleeping position alteration: Sleeping on your back can cause your tongue and soft palate to rest against the back of your throat and block your airway. To keep from rolling onto your back while you sleep, try attaching a tennis ball to the back of your pajama top. There are also commercial devices that vibrate when you roll onto your back in sleep.
- Tissue Removal Surgery: If all other options have failed, surgery is an option. An oral surgeon can remove tissues from the rear of your mouth and top of your throat, as well as your tonsils and adenoids, to help you breathe more easily. This is not considered a reliable treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, however.
- Jaw repositioning surgery: In this procedure, your jaw is moved forward, enlarging the space behind the tongue and soft palate and making obstruction less likely. This procedure is known as maxillomandibular advancement.
- Tracheostomy: This surgery creates a new air passageway in your neck. This is typically only used if other treatments have failed and you have severe, life-threatening sleep apnea. In a tracheostomy, your surgeon will create an opening in your neck and insert a metal or plastic tube through which you breathe. The opening will usually remained covered during the day, and is uncovered at night to assist your breathing.
Lowcountry Dental Arts is here to help sleep apnea sufferers. If you would like to learn more about our Charleston dentist office or Charleston sleep apnea treatments, please schedule an appointment here.