What is Sleep Apnea?
Dentists are able to provide limited therapy for patients with sleep disordered breathing, ranging from snoring to mild to moderate sleep apnea. Working in combination with the patient's physician, the physician evaluates the overall physical exam and sleep studies while the dentist can evaluate and treat the oral connection for successful treatment of the sleep apnea condition.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which a person has episodes of stopped breathing during their sleep. Common symptoms of this condition are chronic snoring and daytime sleepiness.
During sleep, the muscles and soft tissues in the throat and mouth relax making the airway smaller. As the person tries to breath the tissues in the throat vibrate producing the snoring sound. Also, an overwieght condition, alcohol consumption and use of sedatives contribute to increase snoring.
Evaluation of a person's tendency or potential of sleep apnea can be initially screened by two questionaires. The Epworth test is used to determine the level of daytime sleepiness and the Berlin test is used to determine the level of risk for sleep apnea. Some of the basic questions asked are:
- Do you snore?
- How often do you snore?
- Has anyone noticed that you stop breathing during your sleep?
- Do you easily fall asleep during the daytime?
An oral appliance can be custom made to reposition the lower jaw forward and open the airway by holding the base of the tongue forward and preventing it from closing the airway in the throat and thereby stopping the snoring. For examples of appliances, please click here and here.
The sleep apnea treatment option of the oral appliance has many advantages. It is convenient, portable and many patients prefer and benefit from this treatment as compared to other medical and surgical options. It is a very good alternative, conservative treatment compared to the breathing apparatus CPAP therapy for patients with "primary snoring" and mild to moderate sleep apnea.
NOTE: "click" on the highlighted "oral appliance" for a video demonstration of the snoring appliance.
For more information on snoring and sleep apnea click here