Many people suffer from some form of sleep disorder, including sleep apnea. Fortunately, Buffalo-area dentist Dr. Larry Evola at Forestream Dental offers easy treatments to help get you or your loved one sleeping and living better.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is defined as the cessation of breathing for 10 seconds or longer five or more times per hour while you sleep. There are three types of sleep apnea:
- central sleep apnea
- obstructive sleep apnea
- and complex sleep apnea (a combination of the two)
Regardless of the type of sleep apnea from which you suffer, if you suffer from this serious condition, you may not even be aware of it. In worst-case scenarios, sleep apnea, left untreated, can cause serious health problems and even death.
People who suffer from heavy snoring and sleep apnea are deprived of necessary oxygen while they sleep. While it may not seem like a serious problem because the person eventually wakes up to take the necessary breath of air, the lack of oxygen to the body can have lasting effects. Sometimes the body can experience as much as a 50% reduction in the amount of oxygen being taken in. This lack of oxygen can lead to many health problems, including an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Sleep Apnea can Cause:
- Tiredness and irritability resulting from loss of sleep
- Headaches (which can also be a symptom of TMJ/TMD)
- Sore throat due to mouth drying out during sleep
- Difficulty concentrating and memory problems
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Heart problems
- Short-term memory problems
- Intellectual deterioration
Symptoms and Treatments for Sleep Apnea
Affecting more than 20 million Americans of all ages, sleep apnea is often overlooked, ignored or not even considered when a sufferer complains of any one or a combination of its many symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Problems at work, in school, or in your personal life
- Falling asleep during the day and falling asleep while driving
- Heavy snoring
The most common form of sleep apnea disorder, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, can be treated and successfully managed. Sometimes, to treat sleep apnea, all that is needed is a lifestyle change such as less alcohol and caffeine, weight loss, change in sleeping position, or a change in diet. If these changes do not work, there are other alternatives including wearing an oral appliance while you sleep to position the mouth correctly.
These custom-made oral appliances work in conjunction with or as an alternative to CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) treatment, a commonly prescribed therapy by physicians for sleep apnea. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these oral appliances are worn during sleep and allow continuous, easy breathing for those suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Dr. Evola will perform a thorough examination, and then he will sit with you and discuss which treatment options are best suited to your needs. Oral appliance therapy has proven to be highly effective in treating many of our patients. These FDA-approved devices treat snoring and sleep apnea by preventing airway obstruction and allowing you to breathe easily and continuously. Worn in the mouth like an orthodontic appliance during sleep, appliances keep the soft tissue from collapsing and interrupting normal breathing patterns. They can reposition the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and hyoid bone into a certain position to keep the airway open. Your appliance will be custom made by using a mold to fit your mouth perfectly.
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
Chronic snoring and obstructive sleep apnea are two very different conditions. It is important to differentiate between the two in order to fully understand the potential risks you face as well as which form of treatment may be ideal. One way that professionals do this is by carefully assessing your symptoms. During your consultation at our Depew, NY office, Dr. Evola will spend a considerable amount of time asking you about your sleep patterns, your snoring, what happens when you snore, and how you feel during the day. In particular, it's what happens while you're asleep that points to sleep apnea. Snoring is only one symptom. More notably, it is the pauses that break up the sounds of snoring that may indicate sleep apnea. It is in the pause that you may not be breathing.
In addition to reviewing your health history and symptoms, Dr. Evola may also order a sleep test. This test may be done in the comfort of your own home using a home study kit. Before you sleep, you'll apply various comfortable instruments, like a pulsometer and nasal cannula. These instruments will measure important vital signs, including your breathing rate and strength, your oxygen intake, pulse, and more. The recording of these measurements is reviewed to confirm or rule out sleep apnea.
How Does an Oral Appliance Help with Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
The use of an oral appliance has become a common method of treating obstructive sleep apnea and chronic snoring. There are multiple types of oral appliances that dentists use. These include the Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD), Tongue Retaining Device (TRD), Mandibular Advancement Splint (MAS), and Mandibular Repositioning Appliance (MRA). Each type of appliance works slightly differently, but the overall objective is to move the lower jaw forward. When the mandible, the lower jaw, is in a forward position, the tongue is seated in a way that does not block the airway. Being that the tongue is the primary obstruction present in obstructive sleep apnea, this form of therapy can be very beneficial.
How Effective are Oral Appliances at Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
We understand the draw to oral appliances, especially as an alternative to CPAP medical therapy for sleep apnea. That said, it is important that your clinician carefully evaluate your broader health needs while devising a treatment plan. For some people, the use of an oral appliance fully resolves their chronic snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. Some may need to institute a few lifestyle changes in addition to oral appliance therapy. For some, such as patients with severe sleep apnea or concurrent heart disease, CPAP therapy may be more efficient. Your consultation and evaluation with Dr. Evola can help you determine which course of care would be most appropriate for your situation.
Are there Side Effects with Oral Appliance Use for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
If you feel encouraged to seek oral appliance therapy for your chronic snoring or obstructive sleep apnea, it's advantageous to know what to expect. While the improvement in sleep quality and consistent breathing can be a remarkable shift, you may also experience a few discomforts along the way. Knowing what could occur is the first step in managing side effects if you do develop them.
Oral appliances work by repositioning the lower jaw. This new position may feel odd and it may cause your jaw to feel sore. This usually localizes at the back of the jaw, just in front of the ear. This is where the temporomandibular joint is located. The soreness should go away quickly after your remove the appliance each time you use it. Also, as your jaw joints get used to their temporary sleep position, this side effect should diminish. There is also a chance that you may salivate more when wearing the appliance, or that your teeth may feel sensitive or sore. Routine wear is key to overcoming these side effects as quickly as possible.
If you would like to learn more about sleep apnea and how it can be treated, please contact neuromuscular dentist, Dr. Lawrence Evola at Forestream Dental serving cosmetic dentistry patients in Lancaster, Orchard Park, Amherst, Williamsville, Buffalo and nearby areas of New York.