If you have problems with restful sleep through the night, or deal with consistent snoring, your problems may run deeper than you imagine. These are some of the common warning signs for sleep apnea, a condition which afflicts nearly 20 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Sleep apnea is very difficult to diagnose, since it only afflicts the patient while they sleep. Often, it’s a family member or roommate who will notice the problematic snoring or the occurrence of “apneas” during the night. The term apnea refers to the condition’s primary symptom, which is a pause during sleep that can occur up to 30 times in an hour. Additionally, each apnea can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.
If you think that may be suffering from sleep apnea, there are multiple treatment options available that can keep the condition under control. The primary cause of sleep apnea is an airway that becomes obstructed during the night, which can happen for such reasons as an overweight patient (which results in a more constricted airway), or simple genetic predisposition to a blocked airway.
Treatment options include:
CPAP Machine: This device consistently blows air through the airway, keeping it unobstructed. Although it is effective, it can be expensive and requires the use of an air mask during sleep.
Losing weight: Most sleep apnea patients are overweight. Although it may sounds like an overly-simplistic answer, losing weight can provide much needed relief to sleep apnea sufferers.
Oral Appliance Therapy: Perhaps the least intrusive and most affordable option, oral appliance therapy is basically a fancy name for the use of a mouth guard during sleep. There are two types of oral appliance therapy available:
- Mandibular Repositioning Device: Just as the name implies, this device causes the jaw to jut forward slightly during sleep, keeping the airway open and unobstructed.
- Tongue Retaining Device: Instead of moving the jaw, this device holds the tongue in place with a suction bulb. Airway blockages can occur when the tongue collapses backwards during sleep – this device prohibits that.
If you think you’re suffering from sleep apnea, your first visit should actually be with your dentist. Dentists have been trained to recognize the signs of sleep apnea and can go over treatment options with you. Treatment usually begins with the simplest and most cost-effective option; in this case, oral appliance therapy. A dentist can mold an oral appliance specifically for your mouth, and adjust it accordingly during the course of treatment. To read more information about dental problem prevention techniques, please download our free eBook "Prevent the Toothache Before the Money Ache."