Sleep Apnea Treatment

The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea (also known as obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA) is a medical condition in which the soft tissues in the back of a person’s throat begin to relax as he breathes in, ultimately collapsing back to block the throat (upper airway). One of the main reasons that heavy individuals who sleep on their backs typically have horrendous snoring is the sound of these tissues vibrating heavily during breathing. Once a person’s airway becomes blocked, he simply stops breathing, sometimes for 60 seconds or more. Finally the brain senses mortal danger and signals for a gasp of breath. Despite what you might think, it’s likely the person won’t be fully awoken by this gasp, so he never realizes the many periods of oxygen deprivation that occur throughout the night.

As this process repeats throughout the night, oxygen levels in the blood decline, and blood pressure quickly creeps upward because the heart has to work harder. Such nocturnal increases in blood pressure can lead to hypertension (chronic high blood pressure). The risk of having a stroke or a sudden cardiac arrest soars. In severe cases, OSA can trigger a heart attack in the middle of the night.

Treatment Options

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that requires treatment. The dentists and staff of Dental Wellness Center of Maryville can assist patients diagnosed with sleep apnea with selecting among available treatment options. Treatments including CPAP therapy, oral appliance therapy, surgery, or a combination of therapies.

CPAP Therapy

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) may be prescribed by physicians as a treatment for sleep apnea. When used as directed, the CPAP apparatus can be successful in treating OSA. However, as many as 80 percent of CPAP patients report one or more difficulties with their treatment, in many cases leading to patient-elected discontinuation of therapy. Common complaints from CPAP patients include leaky masks, poor or uncomfortable mask fit, restrictions on movement while sleeping, noise produced by the CPAP machine, the inconvenience of traveling with the machine (particularly when navigating airport security checkpoints), claustrophobia, skin irritation from straps and tubing, dry mouth, and bloating due to the high air pressure.

An Alternative: Oral Appliance Therapy

Dental Wellness Center dentists offer an alternative sleep apnea treatment for patients who find the use of a CPAP machine untenable: oral appliance therapy. A custom-made appliance prescribed by one of our dentists is used to gently move the lower jaw forward as you sleep, opening the airway and decreasing or eliminating periods of airway obstruction throughout the night. Unlike a CPAP machine, the oral appliance does not require hoses or straps, it can easily be taken anywhere you travel, and it does not produce disruptive noises that may rouse you or your partner. In fact, in comparison to a traditional CPAP machine, OSA treatment with the oral appliance will go virtually unnoticed by a patient’s partner, minimizing disruption of the partner’s sleep by a sometimes quite noisy machine.

Something important to keep in mind is that a sleep apnea diagnosis is a medical diagnosis, and it can only be made by a certified, medical sleep physician after a qualified sleep test is conducted. Your Dental Wellness Center dentist can play a major role in treatment based on the diagnosis and sleep physician prescription for an oral appliance. Treatment of snoring and sleep apnea with an oral appliance is not covered by dental insurance, but rather by medical insurance. Medical insurance coverage for oral appliance therapy requires a prescription from a medical physician indicating that oral appliance therapy is appropriate and medically necessary.

Expert, Experienced Care

Each of our Dental Wellness Center dentists is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), the premiere association for dental sleep medicine practitioners in the United States.

Ensuring patients receive the highest standard of care, our general dentists regularly complete continuing education coursework in dental sleep medicine, as well as other areas of dental practice.

Sleep Apnea Screener

Answer the eight quick questions below to see if you may be experiencing sleepiness symptoms related to sleep apnea. While this screener is not diagnostic and should not be considered medical or dental advice, it can be an important first step in determining if you should consult with a medical or dental professional for further information.

Printable Sleep Apnea Screener

Download, print, and complete the sleep apnea screener. We’d be happy to schedule an appointment to discuss your results with you.