Many people snore. In fact, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, there is a 50-50 chance that you will snore at some point. But if your loved ones regularly tell you that you snore loudly and sound like you’re in distress, you may have sleep apnea.
At Meadows Dental Group by Espire, our dentists have experience helping patients who struggle with the standard treatment for sleep apnea. Call our office in Lone Tree, Colorado, at 303-790-2323 today to schedule your appointment. We welcome patients in and around Highlands Ranch, Centennial and other nearby areas.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Patients with sleep apnea briefly stop breathing when they’re asleep. These interruptions can happen hundreds of times a night, which diminishes the restfulness of your sleep. There are two kinds of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea, which occurs as a result of miscommunication between the brain and the body, and obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when soft tissues in the airway reduce the flow of air.
Patients with sleep apnea commonly feel tired during the day, even after getting a full night’s rest. They may be irritable or moody. They may also sound like they’re choking or gasping for breath when they sleep, in addition to pervasive snoring.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
The most common and, from a clinical perspective, effective way to treat sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. Patients wear a face mask that maintains a steady flow of air, which combats snoring and regulates breathing.
The success of CPAP therapy approaches 100 percent when patients comply with treatment. Unfortunately, many patients struggle with CPAP treatment for a variety of reasons, including:
- Discomfort caused by the mask, possibly resulting in trouble falling asleep
- Difficulty adjusting to the air flow
- The noise of the CPAP machine
- Dry, itchy skin around the mouth and nose
- Cotton mouth
- Dry or irritated sinuses
Patients with untreated severe sleep apnea are at an elevated risk for high blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. So, if you’re having trouble adjusting to CPAP after your doctor diagnoses you with sleep apnea, Meadows Dental Group by Espire is here to offer a CPAP alternative for sleep apnea treatment.
If I Snore, Do I Have Sleep Apnea?
It's not uncommon to assume that snoring equals sleep apnea. This can be especially true if you also experience some of the daytime symptoms of poor sleep patterns. Snoring can be a frustrating problem, no doubt, but it isn't typically considered a sleep disorder. Sleep apnea is. The two can be a confusing duo because people who have sleep apnea snore. Loudly. Chronically. Here's the difference. If you or someone you love has sleep apnea, snoring is just the beginning. What differentiates it from chronic snoring is that, with sleep apnea, there are pauses. Someone snores loudly and then suddenly stops. The silence is usually followed by a loud, deep breath or a choking sound. The silence is an indication of apnea, a pause in breathing caused by total airway obstruction.
What are the Signs of Sleep Apnea?
Snoring is not enough of an indication to assume you have sleep apnea. Beyond snoring and those telling pauses in noise, symptoms of this sleep disorder include waking with a sore throat or dry mouth, having headaches in the morning, mood changes such as the development or worsening of anxiety or depression, decreased libido, daytime sleepiness, and a marked decline in memory and cognition.
When Should I Talk to My Doctor About My Snoring?
If you become aware of the signs of sleep apnea in yourself or someone you love, talk to your primary care physician. Anyone who snores so loudly that they disrupt their partner or who chokes or gasps after a pause in snoring should consult with their doctor about their symptoms.
If you sleep alone but experience the daytime symptoms of sleep apnea, such as excessive sleepiness ("I just can't wake up"), consider setting a recorder to hear your snoring while you sleep. Listen for pauses of silence. These moments in which you don't hear snoring could indicate times when you're not breathing. You don't need to take your recording to your doctor but you should schedule a visit to discuss your symptoms and suspicions.
What Causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
When your snore, the sounds that you make occur due to vibration in your throat or airway. Snoring indicates that you're having some difficulty passing air through the airways. This could be due to a common cold or allergies but, if you snore nightly, loudly, and you have other signs of sleep apnea, there are likely additional factors involved. Sleep apnea often happens when the muscles relax around the throat. When you sleep, all of your muscles relax. Around the airway, the weight of the muscle relaxation could close the path of airflow. This may occur due to age and the weakening of soft tissue. It could occur due to a large neck circumference or obesity. Whether or not you fit the "mold" of someone who might have sleep apnea, if you have symptoms of this condition, it's advantageous to talk to your doctor.
How Can a Dentist Help Me with Sleep Apnea?
Patients who are unable to tolerate CPAP treatment may benefit from oral splint therapy. Our dentists will evaluate the position of your jaw and create a custom oral appliance.
Similar to TMJ treatment, this appliance repositions your jaw. Maintaining the optimal jaw position will keep your airway open during sleep, thus preventing the disruptions to breathing caused by obstructive sleep apnea.
The splint is worn like a mouth guard, making it much more comfortable and less obtrusive than a CPAP device. The likelihood of you unconsciously removing the appliance while you sleep is also much lower than patients with difficulty tolerating the mask or hose.
It is important to note that a medical doctor who specializes in sleep medicine should diagnose you with sleep apnea before you visit our office.
Meadows Dental Group by Espire will work with your sleep medicine doctor should you struggle with CPAP therapy
Our dentists have extensive experience helping patients find the best option for their dental health and overall well-being. Dr. Scott Peppler has completed advanced courses in appliance therapy for sleep apnea.
Call 303-790-2323 if you are struggling with sleep apnea and want to get a full picture of your options. Meadows Dental Group by Espire is located in Lone Tree and serves Highlands Ranch, Centennial and other areas of Colorado.