Ask Your Dentist: What Is Sleep Apnea and How Do You Treat It?

The quality of your sleep has a direct impact on your overall health and quality of life. This is why experts say that the recommended duration of sleep for adults (aged 26 to 64) should be seven to nine hours daily. What the experts don’t mention, however, is the quality of the sleep that’s necessary to feel refreshed each morning and maintain a healthy body. With good quality sleep, you won’t feel sleepy during daytime and you’ll have ample energy to perform in all your activities.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

One condition you may suffer from that can affect the quality of your sleep and your health is sleep apnea. A chronic disorder that lasts for years, sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder in which your breathing temporarily stops during sleep. This condition is typically associated with snoring and increased airway resistance, both of which can cause oxygen levels in the body to decrease. As a result, your body is briefly awakened so you can resume breathing, causing you to come out of a deep sleep and into a light sleep. When this happens, the quality of your sleep becomes poor.

Treating Sleep Apnea With PAP Therapy, Sleep Devices, and Surgery

Detecting Sleep Apnea

You may have this condition for years but not know that you suffer from it mainly because you’re asleep when the pauses in your breathing happen. Your dentist can suggest the best treatment options, but she can only do so when it has been determined that you have this chronic sleep condition. Usually, if a person suffers from sleep apnea, he only finds out about it when his bed partner becomes aware of the problem.

How Your Dentist Can Help

Positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. PAP therapy requires the use of a machine and a mask through which air is forced through tubing, helping to keep your airway open as you sleep. Additionally, PAP therapy can also eliminate snoring.

Your dentist can also provide alternative treatment options, including the use of oral appliance therapy. An oral sleep appliance is worn in the mouth like an orthodontic retainer or a sports mouth guard during sleep. This device supports the jaw in a forward position in order to prevent the collapse of the airway. If you are suffering from a severe case of sleep apnea, your dentist may recommend upper airway surgery as an alternative treatment.

Pros and Cons of Using Sleep Devices

Like all treatment options, the use of oral appliances also has advantages and disadvantages. Many patients choose to use sleep devices mainly because of its convenience, but there are other advantages, such as comfort and mobility. Compared to PAP masks, dental devices feel much more comfortable, do not have wires that can get tangled during sleep, and are more tolerable to wear. They are portable and quiet, and small enough to be brought along when you travel.

On the other hand, using these dental devices can cause soreness, tension, and jaw pain, as well as sore teeth and gums. Your bite or the jaw position can also change when you use the device for a long time, and it can also cause dental restorations to become loose.

Regardless of your chosen treatment option – PAP therapy, custom-fit oral appliances, or surgery – make sure that you are getting help from a qualified and trained dentist like Dr. Maria Marzo of Finger Lakes Family Dental.

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