Sleep apnea is a surprisingly common condition in which you actually stop breathing multiple times during the night. If untreated, it can lead to a wide variety of health problems, many of which can be misinterpreted as having very different causes. If you suffer from apnea, our dentist might be able to help.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can be difficult to diagnose, since most people who have it are unaware they have a problem. Typically, while you are sleeping, an obstruction in the airway causes your breathing to stop for a few seconds, then your body automatically restarts your breathing. You might wake up during these episodes, but not usually enough to remember them in the morning. In some patients, these moments of breathing cessation can occur multiple times during the night, drastically disrupting natural sleep patterns.
The following symptoms can be indicative of sleep apnea:
- Persistent snoring
- Constant fatigue
- An overall feeling of malaise
- Flu-like symptoms
In many cases, a significant other realizes you’re not sleeping soundly and brings it to your attention. If someone witnesses you having an apnea attack, this is a sure sign you should talk to a doctor about diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Most sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction in the airway. The tissues of the soft palate—the back part of the roof of your mouth—can move into the airway, blocking the flow of air. If you have symptoms of apnea, your doctor will probably want to perform a sleep study to observe your normal sleeping patterns. After apnea has been diagnosed, treatment can include:
- Prosthetics, often supplied by a dentist, that hold the airway open while you sleep
- A CPAP machine that provides a constant airflow throughout the night
- Surgery to remove the tissue causing the blockage
Surgery is less common than other treatments. Prosthetics work by shifting the jaw forward, which causes the airway to remain open. People who find it difficult to sleep with a CPAP mask often find the prosthetics to be a very helpful treatment.
To find a solution, call our practice to consult with our prosthodontist today.