Is your snoring affecting your health?
While that may seem like a silly question, the answer is actually YES. While for many people, snoring is only a minor inconvenience (for their partner, mostly), it could be a sign of a much larger health problem. Sleep apnea left untreated can cause and contribute to much more serious health complications like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, and can even be deadly.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common and dangerous sleep disorder that affects millions of Americans, while many cases remain undiagnosed. One of the primary characteristics of sleep apnea is loud, frequent snoring, which is why many patients are either entirely unaware of their condition, or they just brush it off because, “it’s just snoring, what’s the big deal?” Well let me tell you.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) happens when the soft tissues in the back of the throat collapse during sleep, making it difficult, even impossible for the sufferer to breathe properly throughout the night.
There are many factors that can increase your risk for developing sleep apnea, including if you are:
- Over age 40
- Have a large neck
- Use alcohol or sedatives/tranquilizers
Signs & symptoms
Here are some of the most common signs, symptoms, and characteristics of sleep apnea that you should watch for (most occur during the night):
- Loud, frequent snoring
- Breathing or sleep disruptions
- Choking or gasping for air
- Frequent urination
- Morning headaches or migraines
- Morning dry mouth
- Chronic fatigue
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Depression or anxiety
- Nightmares or insomnia
What are the risks?
When you are unable to find restful sleep night after night, it can take a serious toll on your health. Sleep is the only time that the body is able to fully repair and heal itself, so sleep apnea left untreated can contribute to and increase your risk for serious systemic health problems, including:
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- High blood pressure
Sleep apnea can also increase your risk for death by automobile accident if you fall asleep at the wheel.
What can a dentist do?
That’s a great question. Usually when you are diagnosed with sleep apnea by a primary care physician or other healthcare provider, you will be prescribed treatment with a CPAP machine. While highly effective and still considered the gold standard for sleep apnea treatment, many patients find the CPAP intolerable because it’s big, bulky, loud, and invasive, and prevents patients from sleeping comfortably (which is what it’s obviously intended to do).
Thankfully, there is an alternative! Your dentist can fit you with a custom oral appliance that you wear at night like a mouth guard. Oral appliance therapy works by gently shifting the lower jaw forward, thus preventing the airway from collapsing, and allowing the patient to breathe comfortably throughout the night.
Oral appliance therapy is smaller, less invasive, and overall much more convenient for sleep apnea treatment than a CPAP machine (especially for patients who travel a lot or like to go camping). Oral appliance therapy is safe, convenient, and highly effective, and has changed many of our patients’ lives for the better.
If you’re ready to take control of your sleep apnea and take back your nights, your days, your health, and your life, you’ve come to the right place! If you have any questions about sleep apnea or oral appliance therapy, or would like to schedule a consultation with your dentist, give us a call today!