At Geelan Dental Care, we consider getting a healthy night’s sleep a necessity. Sleep apnea is a troubling condition whereby a person suffers repeated disruption in breathing as they try to sleep. This disruption is the complete or partial blockage of airflow through the upper respiratory tract.
Types of Apnea
Where the blockage is as a result of narrowing of the passage for airflow, it is referred to as obstructive sleep apnea. In this type of apnea, the soft tissues are the cause of the problem. The person may have weak throat muscles, a thicker neck, enlarged tonsils, and adenoids, or even fat deposits in the upper airway that encourage constriction. When breathing stops, the brain forces the person to wake up and take a breath. This action is usually very brief, and many sufferers do not realize that they have woken up at all. They also suffer other symptoms such as loud snoring, irritability, daytime fatigue, and depression.
Another lesser common form of the condition is central sleep apnea. In this particular version, it is the brain that fails to send timely signals to the breathing muscles. Many sufferers tend to find themselves suddenly waking up breathless. They also experience difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. This apnea is caused by damage or infection to the sleep control center of the brain. This is in the lower brainstem. Even if the pathway is clear, a glitch in the brain causes it not to send the normal signals and can result in breathing stopping for as long as 20 seconds in children.
Corrective Dental Devices
In mild to moderate sleep apnea cases, there are dental devices that can help keep the airway open. Mandibular repositioning devices (MRDs) work by pushing the jaw and tongue forward. This prevents soft tissue from caving in at the back of the throat and restricting airflow. It is worn at night like a mouthguard and should be professionally fitted to avoid irritating the user and encouraging them to remove it.
A tongue retaining, or stabilizing, device (TRD) is an increasingly popular apnea solution. Unlike MRDs, they do not need to be customized and tend to cause less jaw discomfort. They are simply designed and work by pulling the tongue away from the back of the throat using suction. The tip of the tongue is inserted into the TRD positioned between the front teeth. Pressing on the chamber of the device when the tongue is inserted creates a pressure that will hold the tongue in place through the night.
Untreated sleep apnea can result in serious health problems for the sufferer. Due to chronic sleep deprivation, heart problems, high blood pressure, stroke, headaches, and diabetes can easily develop or worsen. Depression, irritability, fatigue, and lack of concentration can also damage a person’s personal and work life. It also increases the risk of a motor vehicle and work accidents. In children, this problem can account for an inability to concentrate in class or perform well both academically and in sports.
More About Sleep Apnea
Oral Appliance Therapy
Here at Geelan Dental Care we specialize in the treatment of snoring and mild sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition whereby a person becomes unable to breathe regularly when asleep. Snoring is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea. With obstructive sleep apnea, the person suffers constriction of the upper respiratory tract that partially or completely blocks off airflow. This causes the brain to trigger short periods of wakefulness that forces the person to gasp for air.
Oral appliance therapy involves the use of removable dental devices to help keep the airways open and promote better sleep. These devices are designed to keep the tongue and lower jaw in a forward position so that there is no collapsing inwards or covering up of the upper respiratory channel.
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Learn more about sleep studies.
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To find out if you or a loved one suffers from sleep apnea and what you can do to control it, contact Geelan Dental Care on (971) 323-1990 today to book a visit.