Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep condition that disrupts a person’s breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea can cause a person to stop breathing multiple times throughout the night. While each interrupted breathing spell lasts only seconds, sleep apnea can mean the brain and the rest of the body are not getting enough oxygen, and the person suffering from sleep apnea may wake feeling as if they did not get a full night of rest.
If left untreated, sleep apnea leaves patients at risk for more serious health problems, including high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. While sleep apnea is a sleep disorder, orthodontists can play a role in helping patients achieve a more restful night’s sleep.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
There are several ways a patient may know if they could be suffering from sleep apnea. They include:
- Sore or dry throat upon waking
- Loud snoring
- Waking with a gasping or choking feeling
- Lack of energy or feeling of being tired during the day
- Waking with a headache
- Feeling of restless sleep
Additionally, there are several factors that can place you more at risk for developing sleep apnea. While these may place a higher risk, anyone can develop sleep apnea, even children. Risk factors include:
- Being male
- Being overweight
- Being over 40 years old
- Having abnormally large tonsils or a tongue
- Having a small jaw bone
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
- Suffering from gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- Suffering from any nasal obstruction, such as deviated septum or allergies
Causes of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax, causing your airway to narrow or even close. This results in the inadequate breathing and can lower the amount of oxygen in your blood. Your body will briefly awake to signal your body to reopen the airway. Often, a person is awake for such a brief time that he may not even realize he has awoken.
Your dentist or orthodontist may be able to help you find relief from sleep apnea, however, Special dental devices can be created that can ensure the airway remains open while you sleep.
If your sleep apnea is caused by a jaw that is too small, orthodontic treatment, including jaw surgery, may be able to help.
If you wake up feeling unrested, spend your days fatigued, have been told your snore loudly, or if you have any of the other symptoms, call your doctor, dentist or orthodontist today to schedule a consultation. You can be referred to a sleep specialist who can diagnose your condition and come up with a treatment plan. Your orthodontist may have a number of oral devices available to help you get a good, healthy night’s rest.