TREATMENT OF SNORING AND OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA
Snoring is caused when the soft tissues in the upper airway around the back of the tongue relax in sleep, and come in close approximation with each other and vibrate when air is moved in and out during normal respiration. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the tissues fold in on each other to the point that the movement of air is stopped for periods of time, up to 40 seconds in length, and up to 30 times per hour or more often.
Most people who sleep alone are not aware of snoring or sleep apnea, except for the unwarranted sleepiness, irritability and memory loss during the day caused by sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea has been shown by research to cause headaches, memory loss, high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, psychological problems and impotence. Most research indicates that two to four percent of the population is afflicted by sleep apnea, but some researchers feel that the incidence is much higher.
Men are more likely to have sleep apnea than women, and being over-weight and sedentary increases the probability of developing the disorder. The risk increases with middle to old age, and the use of alcohol and other drugs also increase the risk. Genetic predisposition is also a strong possibility in some cases.
The primary treatment for moderate to severe OSA is the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device, which fits over the nose and mouth and delivers a continuous stream of air to keep the airway open and the lungs supplied with Oxygen. About 40 to 60% of CPAP users find the device difficult to tolerate and quit using it. In these instances dental devices can be fabricated by a dentist and their lab that, while not as effective as the CPAP, is much better than using nothing at all.
For snoring, as well as mild to moderate OSA, a wide range of dental devices are helpful in reducing the potential for serious health consequences in many patients. About 75% to80% of patients benefit from these devices. Untreated OSA has such serious health issues that it should not be left untreated.
At Clark Family Dental, we ask questions related to OSA during our routine dental examinations, and refer suspected patients to sleep clinics where they can be tested by a sleep medicine physician. If you feel you have some of the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, consult your physician or our office for a screening and a possible referral to a sleep medicine specialist.