Treating Sleep Apnea with Custom Oral Appliances

Sleep apnea causes your breathing to pause or your breaths to become shallow while you sleep. Often characterized by loud snoring, it is a common and potentially serious problem. Oral appliances fitted by a dentist can provide relief and improve the health of patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. In Idaho Falls, ID, Dr. Mark Tall provides custom-fitted dental mouth guards that keep the airways open to allow oxygen to flow normally during sleep. Because the appliance is designed to fit precisely, patients can wear them comfortably at night for a simple yet effective solution. If  you would like to learn more about how we treat sleep apnea, please schedule a consultation with Dr. Tall.

Understanding Sleep Apnea

sleep apneaSleep apnea is a condition that disrupts your sleep because of repeatedly interrupted breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type, occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax and block your airway when you inhale. The oxygen level in your blood drops, which alerts the brain to briefly wake you. This awakening, which may be accompanied by a loud snort or choking sound, causes you to transition from deep sleep and into light sleep. Normal breathing resumes, but then the muscles relax and the cycle begins again. Typically, you will not notice or remember the brief awakenings, even though they can happen 30 or more times in one hour. 

The less common type of the disorder is central sleep apnea. It occurs when the brain fails to send the proper signals needed to maintain breathing during sleep. This type of sleep apnea is much more complex, and requires the attention of a specialist.  

Risk Factors and Complications

Anyone can be affected by sleep apnea. However, there are several known factors that increase your risk for developing the condition. These include being overweight, having a thick neck, a narrowed airway, a family history of sleep apnea, smoking, nasal congestion, and the use of alcohol or sedatives. Males are twice as likely suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. It is more common in adults older than 60 and in African Americans under 35. Small children with enlarged tonsils can also experience obstructive sleep apnea. Left untreated, sleep apnea can have very serious complications. They can include:

  • Increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke
  • Increased risk of obesity and diabetes
  • Daytime fatigue, which can increase the risk of driving or work-related accidents

Other problems associated with sleep apnea can include memory problems, mood swings, dry mouth, morning headaches, and depression.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The majority of those with sleep apnea do not know they have it because it only happens when they are sleeping. Physicians usually cannot detect it during routine checkups, and there is no blood test to help diagnose the condition. Many times, it is a family member or partner that first notices the loud snoring. When sleep apnea is suspected, it can be diagnosed by your primary care doctor or a sleep specialist. Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and oral appliances. Surgery may be recommended if other solutions fail. CPAP, which delivers pressurized air through a mask placed over your nose during sleep, is usually effective. However, many patients find the system uncomfortable or difficult to use. Oral appliances work by moving your jaw forward to keep the airway from collapsing. They are also effective, and much more user-friendly. Oral devices for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea must be prescribed by a physician and fitted by a dentist, oral surgeon, or otolaryngologist.

Contact Sandcreek Dental

With special training and extensive experience fitting patients with custom appliances for both temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) and sleep apena, Dr. Tall is highly qualified to help you find relief. To make an appointment, please contact us today.

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