All you need to know about Sleep Apnea Appliances

Sleep Apnea Appliances

This article discusses the causes and treatment for sleep apnea, which your local dentist can advise on. To speak with a dentist regarding sleep apnea in Kingston, Ontario, click the link for a free consultation.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a physical condition that influences more people than we may imagine. Common symptoms such as always being tired or snoring while sleeping are often not seen as a health concern, and often take a long time before people seek medical attention. Yet, sleep apnea can have a huge detrimental impact on your life as well as the life of those closest to you.

There are two forms of sleep apnea:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common form of sleep apnea. Those who suffer from OSA encounter periodic breathing pauses during the night, often alternated by shallow breathing. These breathing pauses range from a few seconds to several minutes, and may occur over 30 times an hour. After these short stops, the person takes up breathing again, often through gasps or choking sounds, as the body looks to acquire oxygen.

While sleeping, the muscles in our mouth and throat relax, and repair themselves for the next day. But with some people, the throat muscles relax to a point where they fall back too much, block the airways and so stopping oxygen from entering.

When the person tries to breathe during his sleep, any air that squeezes past the blockage causes a loud snoring noise, and can affect other people in the household especially those sleeping in the same room. Sleep apnea is a relatively common disorder and affects more than 18 million people in the US alone.

OSA is more common with people who are suffering from obesity, however it can occur with anyone. For example, people with enlarged tonsil tissues in their throats may also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

Since the sleeping pattern of a person suffering from OSA is constantly disrupted, the quality of their sleep can be very poor thus making them tired during their waking hours, even though the number of hours of sleep may be considered appropriate. We can infer that sleep apnea is directly related to an individual being tire.

It can often take a long time before a sleep apnea is discovered, as it is not often identified during routine visits to the doctor, nor is it identified in a blood test. It often takes someone in the patient’s immediate circle, such as a partner or family member, who notices the symptoms first.

Common symptoms of sleep apnea are:

  • Loud or frequent snoring
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Choking or gasping sounds
  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty focusing

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea is a much less common type of sleep apnea. Patients with this type of sleeping disorder have a malfunction in the brain that doesn’t send the correct signals to the breathing muscles. As a result, the person stops breathing for several seconds, before picking up again.

Central sleep apnea is mostly seen with people who have certain medical conditions and can be associated to certain medications. CSA can occur together with obstructive sleep apnea or by itself. Note that snoring is not a symptom of central sleeping apnea.

How to assess sleep apnea

Before any treatment can be started, it is important to get a sleep study to determine the severity of the symptoms. An overnight sleep study usually involves the patient staying a night in a sleeping clinic. While sleeping, the patient is connected with several sensors to a computer system. These sensors record the brain waves, heartbeat, breathing and movement. Results are categorized in 3 groups.

Sometimes it is also possible to have a home sleep apnea test. This type of sleep study lets you sleep in your own bed, with a small monitor collecting data while you sleep.

The severity of one’s sleep apnea is determined by the amount of pauses in the breathing (apnea events):

  • Mild: the patient suffers 5-14 breathing interruptions an hour.
  • Moderate: the patient suffers 15-30 breathing interruptions an hour.
  • Severe: the patient suffers 30 or more interruptions per hour.

What are my treatment options?

Depending on the severity of the condition, the doctor will suggest one of the following appliances.

Mandibular Advancement Devices

The first option is called Mandibular Advancement Devices (MAD’s) which can be made by your dentist. These devices are similar in appearance to a sports mouth guard and fit over the lower and upper dental arches, together with metal hinges connecting them. The main goal of the device is to keep your airway constantly open by moving your lower jaw. MAD’s should always be custom made and adjustable, so your dentist can adjust in follow up consultations for maximum effect.

Tongue Retaining Devices

TRD’s, or Tongue Retaining Devices, function similar to MADs, but while the above option moves the jaw forward, the TRD controls the tongue itself. They are also similar in design, but have a small compartment that fits around the tongue using suction to keep it forward.

Continuously Positive Airway Pressure device

Another commonly used treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP). A CPAP device consists of a small silent generator, a hose and a mask to put over nose and mouth while sleeping. The device sends a constant flow of pressurized air through the mask into your throat to ensure your airways stay open during sleep.

A lot of patients find the use of the CPAP device uncomfortable and need some time to get used to it. Common complains are: an itchy nose, a dry mouth, leaking masks, and a hard time falling asleep. Regular consultation with your doctor while getting the device to function properly will aid in the effectiveness of the device.

If you think you may have sleep apnea you should contact your local sleep clinic or go to your local doctor for more information. You can also visit your Kingston dentist for additional information on the subject.

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