Sleep apnea (or sleep apnoea) is one of the most undiagnosed conditions, and yet is incredibly common. The word apnea means “stopping breathing” or “no breath.” Sleep apnea occurs when you are asleep, and the most common symptom is snoring. Other signs that can indicate you suffer from sleep apnea are gasping or choking sounds while sleeping.
When you have sleep apnea, you can stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer while you are asleep. Your brain is triggered because it doesn’t get enough oxygen and it wakes you up.
You might not even remember waking up when you fall back to sleep right away but this process can happen multiple times per hour. This interrupts your sleep cycle and puts a strain on your body.
There are three types of sleep apnoea: central sleep apnea (CSA), obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and mixed sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. In this case, the upper airway in the nose or throat is blocked (or obstructed) and the air stops flowing to the lungs.
There can be several reasons for the blockage, and some of them are temporary (e.g. inflamed tonsils), while others are permanent.
Influencing factors for sleep apnea are the shape of your jaw, neck, and nose as well as relaxed facial muscles that narrow your airways and block air circulation. The severity of OSA can vary from mild (5-14 breathing interruptions an hour), moderate (15-30 episodes an hour) to severe (30 or more interruptions an hour).
Central sleep apnea describes a condition of a patient that has open airways but a communication problem between the brain and the body that results in the body failing to breathe automatically. Patients with CSA don’t usually snore.
Mixed sleep apnea is a mixed condition of OSA and CSA.
In general, everyone can be affected by sleep apnoea regardless of age, body type, or gender. However, excess weight, smoking, old age, alcohol consumption and sleeping tablets can increase the risk for sleep apnea.
If sleep apnea is left untreated over a long period of time, the lack of oxygen your body receives can contribute to several long-term health risks such as heart disease, high blood pressure, memory loss, depression, and diabetes.
The first step after you (or your partner) pick up that you might have sleep apnea is to conduct a sleep study completed by a registered Sleep Physician.
If your result comes back as mild or moderate OSA, our dentists can treat you with an oral appliance (splint) which a lot of people prefer over wearing a CPAP machine. The splint is similar to a mouthguard you might wear during sports but instead of protecting your teeth, the appliance holds your tongue in position. This ensures that your airways stay open and you can breathe at night.
A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine uses a steady stream of air and keeps your airway open when you are asleep to ensure you are breathing. The machine comes with a mask that covers your mouth and is kept at the bedside. These machines are often used to treat severe cases of sleep apnea.
Other treatment options that might be used depending on the reason for your sleep apnea are surgery, weight management, lifestyle, and sleeping habit changes.
Currently, our Coastal Dental Care practices at Banora Point, Burleigh Waters, Kingscliff, Mudgeeraba, Robina Town, and Runaway Bay are offering Sleep Apnea treatment plans. Book in for a consultation online (make a note: Sleep Apnea) or give one of our practices a call to receive more information.
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