Sleep Apnea Therapy
A good night’s sleep is essential to function well throughout the day. Unfortunately, studies indicate that millions of people in the US are not receiving the quantity or quality of sleep they need to maintain optimal health. If you feel tired no matter how much sleep you get, experience chronic snoring, or have difficulty concentrating, you may be suffering from sleep apnea. At Los Gatos Dental Group, our skilled dentists have training and experience to help patients get an accurate sleep apnea diagnosis and partner with them to receive the care they need to sleep soundly and wake feeling rested. If you want help diagnosing and finding treatment for sleep apnea in Los Gatos, call our caring sleep dentist and team today.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is one of the three most common sleep disorders. It occurs when patients stop breathing for ten or more seconds at a time during sleep. There are two types of sleep apnea – central and obstructive. Central sleep apnea is rare, and it is caused by issues when the electrical signals from the brain that fail to trigger the body to breathe. Obstructive sleep apnea is much more common. It is caused by an actual airway blockage that prevents normal breathing. This form of sleep apnea has a wide range of treatment options including oral appliance therapy available form a trusted sleep dentist.
How do I Know I Have Sleep Apnea?
The only way to know for sure you’re suffering from sleep apnea is to undergo a professional sleep study. However, it’s important for patients to recognize the risk factors and warning signs of this sleep disorder and let their medical doctor or dentist know right away. Men, patients who are considered obese, and people over the age of 60 are all at a higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea. Some warning signs you’re suffering from sleep apnea include:
- Loud, chronic snoring
- Waking feeling tired after receiving adequate sleep
- Excessive exhaustion during the day
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Mood swings or changes in behavior
What Treatments Are Available?
One of the most common treatments for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). These systems use pressurized air to keep the airway open during sleep. While CPAP offers effective treatment for many patients, others find themselves unable to adjust to this treatment option. These patients are considered CPAP intolerant. For these patients, those who travel frequently, and those who receive inadequate relief from CPAP treatment, oral appliances or combined CPAP and oral appliance therapy may be a viable alternative. Oral appliances are custom crafted to shift the jaw forward. The shift in jaw position places pressure on the throat muscles, which keeps the airway clear during sleep.
Why Should I Visit a Dentist for Sleep Apnea Therapy?
Dentists, especially trained sleep dentists, receive extensive training that allows them to understand the way oral and facial structures interact. That makes them the ideal doctors to provide treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, as they have a unique understanding of how the airway and facial structures function and how to improve that function.
Sleep Apnea Frequently Asked questions
Still have some questions about sleep apnea and oral appliance therapy from our dental office? The Los Gatos Dental Group team would be happy to help. You can reach us anytime over the phone or by email. Below, you will find answers to some of the sleep apnea questions we hear most often, but we would love the opportunity to address any of your questions or concerns personally. Please don’t hesitate to call our team or schedule a sleep apnea consultation to learn more. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Is Loud Snoring Always Sleep Apnea?
Not always, but it is one of the most common side effects of sleep apnea. Snoring occurs when air moving through the nasal passages or throat vibrates against tissue. For patients with obstructive sleep apnea, this vibrating tissue may be preventing them from breathing or inhaling deeply enough to receive adequate oxygen. Patients with sleep apnea typically experience loud snoring with periods of silence between. The snoring is typically restarted with a gasping or wheezing sound that occurs when the body wakens itself to begin breathing again. Snoring that is not caused by airway obstruction is usually a consistent volume without long breaks between snores. Both snoring and obstructive sleep apnea may be treatable with oral appliance therapy, so don’t hesitate to ask our skilled dentists and team about oral appliance therapy to treat snoring.
Do Oral Appliances Work for All Sleep Apnea Sufferers?
Not all sleep apnea sufferers can be treated with oral appliances. Those who are suffering from central sleep apnea will not be able to use this form of treatment. Central sleep apnea occurs when the mind fails to trigger the body to breathe in or out. CPAP may be effective for these patients as it forces air into the system, but many central sleep apnea patients need advanced surgical treatments. Additionally, patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea may not receive adequate relief with an oral appliance alone. Instead, these patients may benefit from combined CPAP and oral appliance therapy or just CPAP treatment.
Do I Have to do a Sleep Study in a Clinic?
Today, at-home sleep studies are becoming much more common and reliable diagnostic options for sleep apnea sufferers. Traditional in-office sleep studies offer greater sensitivity to track instances of apnea (complete cessation of breathing for ten or more seconds) and hypopnea (shallow breathing or cessation for less than ten seconds). However, many patients report they were unable to sleep comfortably, so these studies may not represent an accurate picture of your actual sleep cycle. At-home tests are slightly less sensitive than the in-office studies. Patients are able to sleep more soundly in a place they’re used to, so these tests may offer a more accurate representation of actual sleep cycles. You can talk to our team or a trusted local sleep physician about your sleep study options to find the solution that best fits your needs.
What if I Have Central Sleep Apnea?
Central sleep apnea is a much more serious health risk. Because the cessation of breathing is caused by the brain’s failing to trigger the body to inhale and exhale, patients are in serious danger, and for some patients, central sleep apnea can be fatal. If you’re diagnosed with central sleep apnea, it’s essential that you work closely with a trusted sleep doctor to create a treatment plan that will safely and effectively treat your condition. Most patients with central sleep apnea will not be candidates for oral appliance therapy. However, if you struggle to adapt to the sounds and sensations of CPAP treatment, combining an oral appliance with your CPAP may be a viable option. The oral appliance opens the airway, so your CPAP can be used at lower levels, which many patients adjust to more readily.
Am I at High Risk for Sleep Apnea?
Anyone can suffer from sleep apnea. However, there are some patients who are considered higher risk, including those who:
- Have a BMI greater than 25
- Have a neck circumference greater than 16 inches for women or 17 inches for men
- Are 50 years of age or older
- Are male
- Suffer from high blood pressure
- Have a family history of sleep apnea