Snoring and Sleep Apnea

by: Dr. Tom Swanlund

Sleep apnea is quite prevalent; statistics out of the US quote approximately 12 million people have some degree of sleep apnea. This sleep issue occurs when the airway is obstructed by the tongue and soft tissues of the throat during sleep.

When the airway is constricted and oxygen is not getting into the lungs for circulation to the rest of the body the brain senses this, the heart rate increases, and ultimately the person wakes up. When this cycle continues during the night, a sleep deficiency develops as the person is not able to get much-needed deep restorative sleep called REM sleep. As well this cycle of sleep/waking has a significant negative effect on the heart.

Sleep apnea can affect every organ system. It is linked to weight gain, poor memory, heart attack, stroke, depression, diabetes hypertension, gastric reflux, libido, sleepiness, and ADHD in children.

Signs and symptoms are snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, awakening at night with gasping or choking and fragmented, and non-refreshing light sleep.

If any of these signs or symptoms are common to you it is important to see your physician so they can assist in providing a diagnosis. Your physician may send you to a sleep clinic for a sleep study, also called a polysomnogram. During a sleep study, you will sleep overnight at the clinic with small sensors attached to you to monitor your sleep patterns. After this is complete the physician will review the results of the study to see if treatment is needed.

A few treatment options for sleep apnea exist.

A CPAP machine is a non-surgical option. CPAP which means continuous positive airway pressure consists of a machine that delivers air under pressure through the nose while you sleep to help prevent constriction of the airway.

Surgical management also exists for sleep apnea. These options are used mostly in severe cases of sleep apnea. All of the surgical procedures available include the removal of soft tissue in the oral cavity and throat to prevent constriction while a person sleeps. These surgeries do require significant post-operative discomfort and healing time.

Another treatment option for sleep apnea is a dental appliance called a Mandibular Advancement Appliance. These appliances prevent the lower jaw from falling back when you sleep which keeps the tongue forward and out of the airway. These appliances work best in mild to moderate sleep apnea.

At Aqua Dental Wellness we work closely with patients who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea as well as with their physicians to make and monitor dental appliances as an alternative to CPAP.