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Everything You Need To Know About Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a medical condition that affects nearly 18 million Americans. Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway becomes blocked during sleep. This blockage causes the patient to stop breathing for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute.

What is sleep apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA for short, is a condition in which an obstruction in the airway causes a person to stop breathing while they are sleeping. This can occur hundreds of times each night and can have significant health consequences if it is not properly treated. This condition is caused by the tongue falling back and blocking the airway during sleep. Over time, this can cause the jaw to shrink due to the loss of bone structure in the area and become recessed. This is why dentists are often the first to identify this condition during an exam. 

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

Some of the symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Dry mouth due to breathing issues at night
  • Morning headaches
  • Nighttime teeth grinding or clenching of teeth
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Mood changes and anxiety
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure and heart problems
  • Stroke
  • Sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction in men

If you notice your partner snoring often or experiencing some of these other symptoms, ask your dentist if sleep apnea could be the cause. He or she can recommend some lifestyle changes that will help minimize its symptoms. They can also refer you to a specialist who treats sleep disorders.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

If your dentist suspects that you suffer from sleep apnea, they may refer you to a doctor for a sleep study. This study will take place at the lab overnight and involves monitoring your breathing, heart rate, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep. You may also be hooked up to other monitors that record your brain waves and muscle activity. This all helps determine if you actually suffer from sleep apnea. If so, the sleep specialist can work with you to develop a treatment plan that’s right for you. They’ll likely recommend certain lifestyle changes as well as oral appliance therapy. The latter is often viewed as the most effective and convenient treatment option.

What treatments are available for sleep apnea?

If you have obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This machine uses a mask that you wear over your nose while you sleep. The mask is connected to a small machine that creates air pressure that keeps the airways open and relaxed. This helps to prevent pauses in breathing as you sleep.

Your doctor may also prescribe an oral device that pushes your lower jaw and tongue forward during sleep to keep them from blocking your airways. Oral devices are similar to retainers worn at night. They are custom-made to fit your mouth. 

In some cases, a dentist or orthodontist may be able to help you adjust the position of your teeth so that you have an easier time keeping your airways open throughout the night. 

Another option for treating sleep apnea is surgery to remove excess tissue in the mouth or throat. Surgery is often the last resort option and may not be right for you.

To learn more about our services for sleep health, call us at (971) 339-0816 or visit the Sleep Health Partners office at 9370 SW Greenburg Rd, Suite 422 Rd Suite 422, Portland 97223.

Phone: (971) 339-0816



9370 SW Greenburg Rd, Suite 422 Rd Suite 422, Portland, 97223

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