Our team have completed specialized training in Sleep Health. Sleep is vitally important to your overall health. Many systemic diseases such as high blood pressure, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and GERD (gastroesophageal disease) are associated with obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. Orally, OSA can be related to bruxism (clenching and grinding) and erosion of teeth. Many people are not aware that they have sleep disordered breathing. In fact, up to 90% of people with OSA have never been diagnosed. OSA is common, treatable and easily diagnosed by doing a take-home sleep study. We screen each of our patients to determine whether they would benefit from a sleep study.
Even simple snoring is considered sleep disordered breathing. It occurs when the soft tissue surrounding the airway collapses around it. The tissue vibrates with air movement during breathing and causes the noise that we know as snoring. This can be a warning sign of a much more serious condition such as OSA or severe sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. Breathing pauses can last anywhere from several seconds to minutes, and happen many times per hour. Ongoing disrupted breathing causes an imbalance between the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the bloodstream, as not enough carbon dioxide is exiting and not enough oxygen is entering the body.
Sensing this imbalance, the brain sends a message to the body, telling it to wake up to restart the breathing process. People with sleep apnea will partially awake as they struggle to breathe, and this is often accompanied by loud snoring or choking sensations. Since people with sleep apnea don’t always completely awake during the episodes, they are often unaware they have a sleeping disorder and it can remain undiagnosed.
Because sleep apnea causes carbon dioxide levels to skyrocket in the blood and oxygen levels to decrease, the heart has to pump harder and faster to compensate for the lack of oxygen. Sleep apnea has been linked to a series of serious heart-related conditions, and should be investigated by the dentist at the earliest opportunity.
Untreated OSA is dangerous and potentially deadly and can take years off of your life. You are about six times more likely to have a motor vehicle accident due to excessive sleepiness. 60-65% of diabetics have OSA. Family history and obesity are risk factors as well. Since we typically lose muscle tone and gain weight as we get older, age is a factor for OSA. Oral anatomy can also contribute to the likelihood of developing OSA. Our team are trained to look for these potential problems. Sometimes your bed partner may observe symptoms such as snoring, gasping for breath or grinding your teeth even though you are unaware that it is happening.
It is important to complete a sleep study to determine the nature and extent of sleep disordered breathing. Snoring and mild to moderate OSA can be easily treated with an oral appliance. The appliance works by holding the lower jaw forward preventing the impingement of soft tissue around the airway. It is a simple and easy way to address this problem.
More severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea are better treated with continuous positive airway pressure therapy which is more commonly known as a CPAP machine.
Some questions to consider:
Do you feel that your sleep is not refreshing or restful?
Do you experience fatigue throughout the day or have difficulty staying awake?
Do you snore or have you ever been told that you snore?
Do you frequently get up to urinate during the night?
Do you have diabetes or high blood pressure?