Sleep Apnea

What is Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that causes an individual to stop breathing for brief periods of time while they are sleeping. It often occurs when structures in the throat close off the upper airway causing loud snoring and often gasping sounds as the brain alerts the body to the lack of oxygen. These gasps or chokes are often unbeknownst to the affected individual because they are so brief but bed partners are all too aware and are usually the ones who bring the condition to light.  

When these episodes of apnea (no breathing) occurs, less oxygen gets to the brain and more stress is put on the heart and other organs. If this occurs often and for several years, it can contribute to several serious medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes not to mention causing a person to feel excessively fatigued during the day. Often job performance, personal relationships and overall quality of life can suffer because of obstructive sleep apnea.  

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Most cases of sleep apnea are caused by conditions that obstruct the airway when sleeping. Conditions such as obesity, enlarged tonsils or a large tongue can cause the oral structures and the soft tissues of the neck to fall back and close off the airways as you breathe in during sleep.

Other factors that can cuase sleep apnea:

A large neck

Excess soft tissues of the neck can impinge the airways during sleep.

An inherited narrowed airway

Some people are just born with a narrow throat. If tonsils or adenoids are large, they can block a narrow airway, especially in children.

Male Gender

Sleep apnea is 2-3 x more common in men than in women. However, the risk for women increases after menopause or if they are overweight.

Age

With age our skin and muscles lose their elasticity. Sleep apnea occurs significantly more often in older adults.

Use of Alcohol or sedatives

Medications or substances that relax your muscles can cause or worsen the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.

Tobacco smoking

Smoking increases swelling and fluid retention in the airways and those who smoke are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than are people who’ve never smoked.

How is OSA Treated?

Mild cases of sleep apnea can often improve with lifestyle changes, such as weight loss or smoking cessation. For cases not caused by weight, smoking, alcohol or allergies, or if your case of sleep apnea is more significant, therapies that open up your airway are available. Some include machines (BiPAP and CPAP) that introduce positive airway pressure through a mask that you wear while you sleep.

For some, oral appliances are an excellent option for treating obstructive sleep apnea. Oral appliances are designed to keep your throat open while you sleep and are often much more comfortable and easier to use that the positive airway machines. Most work to keep your throat open by pushing your jaw forward, relieving snoring and most cases of mild obstructive sleep apnea.

Dentists such as Dr. Prendergast are thrilled to offer this treatment to his patients that suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. The right oral appliance can make a significant difference in one’s quality of life while also reducing the risk of serious medical problems that can be caused by untreated sleep apnea.

How to tell if you have OSA

The following symptoms are commonly seen with OSA:

  • Loud snoring interrupted by periods of not breathing or gasping
  • Daytime drowsiness and fatigue
  • Difficulty staying awake while driving
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Interrupted sleep

If you have any of the above, talk to your healthcare provider for testing. If you are found to have obstructive sleep apnea, contact our office and ask Dr. Prendergast or the staff about out treatment options for OSA.

Schedule an Appointment

If you are interested in learning about OSA with oral appliances, call Advanced Dental Health at 303-771-0225. We will be happy to answer your questions and schedule your appointment with Dr. Prendergast.

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