Do you snore at night? What might seem like an innocuous habit can not only interrupt the sleep of the snorer, but the partner as well. In addition, it could be a warning sign of sleep apnea. Snoring can lead to tiredness, even after a full night's sleep, and even frustration between couples. As part of your routine check-up at Newbury Dental, we screen our patients for snoring and sleep related breathing disorders to ensure that you are not suffering from the adverse effects of these underlying conditions.
Snoring occurs when your airway is partially blocked by the soft tissues at the back of the mouth (tongue, soft palate, tonsils, uvula), while you are sleeping. Sometimes, this partial blockage can be a complete occlusion or collapse of your airway, which leads to your breathing stopping. This is known as obstructive sleep apnea. These stoppages can last at least 10 seconds, and for some patients may last more than a minute. What can be even more surprising is that patients who suffer from sleep apnea can have more than a hundred of these episodes each night.
We all need sleep, and most of us have felt the effects of a poor night's sleep. We feel tired, a lack of energy and irritable. Sleep apnea interrupts the amount of deep sleep that we get at night, which is important for rest and recovery, growth, immune system function and memory.
As a result, obstructive sleep apnea and your body not getting enough restful sleep can have a broad range of effects on your systemic health. Beyond fatigue, a lack of energy and daytime sleepiness, sleep apnea can increase your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, reflux disease, Alzheimer's disease and mortality in cancer patients. Obstructive sleep apnea can increase your risk of heart failure by 160% and stroke by over four times. It has also been linked to certain types of headaches, dementia, and even sexual dysfunction.
Not only does sleep apnea have systemic health consequences, it can also cause damage to our teeth and oral health. There is a strong correlation between nocturnal bruxism (night-time tooth grinding) and obstructive sleep apnea. The tooth grinding is believe to be a reflex in response to a collapsed airway, and can have long-term consequences such as tooth wear, sensitivity and even tooth loss. Uncontrolled sleep apnea can also exacerbate the effects of reflux disease by forcing stomach acid into the oral environment, adding an additional erosive component to tooth wear and accelerating it. Sufferers of sleep apnea also may be affected by xerostomia (dry mouth), which changes the oral environment and increases the risk of tooth decay.
Warning signs of sleep apnea can range from excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, morning headaches, nocturnal tooth grinding, high blood pressure, to a large neck size. There are many other signs of sleep apnea, but the main warning sign that we look for is if a patient has been observed to have stopped breathing during their sleep.
Treatment for patients who are diagnosed with sleep apnea often starts with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP is considered the gold standard for treatment of moderate to severe sleep apnea. However, CPAP therapy is only effective if patients are compliant with the treatment and some alternative treatments show higher compliance. Other alternative treatments include oral appliance therapy, surgery and orthodontics. All of these treatment are often accompanied by other health/lifestyle changes.
For patients who refuse to proceed with CPAP therapy and choose oral appliance therapy, we can help fabricate a small non-invasive appliance that repositions the patients jaw. Repositioning the jaw helps to create and open airway, allowing the patient to breath and limiting any obstruction to the airway.
If you or someone you know is concerned about sleep apnea, don't hesitate and contact your medical doctor or our dentists at Newbury Dental for a consultation.