SLEEP APNEA AND YOUR TEETH: Some basic information

Dr. Carlos A. Alonso, DDS

What is Sleep Apnea?

When you close your eyes to sleep, you are letting go of everything and letting your body’s natural responses take over. The process of sleep is healing and rejuvenating. It is necessary to stay healthy and happy. However, for some people, sleep is not a refuge. For some people, sleep presents its own unique dangers.

One of the most dangerous conditions while you sleep is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that manifests during sleep. While most people breathe deeply and evenly during sleep, people with sleep apnea experience episodes in which the breathing process stops and starts suddenly. Some people associate these periods of stunted breathing with snoring. While snoring is linked to sleep apnea, it is important to remember that not everyone who snores is experiencing sleep apnea. However, if you snore regularly, it may be worth asking your doctor about the possibility of sleep apnea.

What are the different types of sleep apnea?

Condition: Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Procedure: Sleep Appliances

There are different types of sleep apnea, but the most common form is obstructive sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles of the throat become too relaxed and do not properly respond to your body’s need for oxygen. Sleep apnea can lead to other health issues. People with sleep apnea are more likely to have liver problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems and more. Moreover, uncontrolled sleep apnea can affect your mood and prevent the people you love from getting a good night’s sleep. Given these risks, treatment is essential.

It is surprising to some people that a dentist can be the first person to help you diagnose sleep apnea. This is because a dentist spends more time looking in your mouth than the typical doctor. Dentists may suspect sleep apnea if patients show evidence of grinding their teeth. Additionally, there are specific features in the mouth that make sleep apnea more likely. Dentists can also look for signs of a small throat, a scalloped tongue or even redness. All of these signs may indicate a problem with sleep apnea.

Dentists can also help treat sleep apnea. Most people think sleep apnea must be treated with a continuous positive airway pressure machine. These CPAP machines force air into your mouth to ensure that you do not stop breathing. A CPAP machine has been proven very effective, but not everyone can tolerate such treatment. Therefore, some dentists recommend an oral alternative.

Unlike a CPAP machine, which is fitted outside the mouth, an oral appliance is fitted to go inside your mouth. It looks and feels like a retainer for orthodontic purposes. To this end, the device is customized to a precise mold of the patient’s mouth. This ensures that the device is comfortable, effective and safe. Its purpose is to protect the airway. In some types of sleep apnea, the muscles in the throat and mouth start to relax too much. These devices can encourage the jaw into a forward position. This can prevent the collapse of the airway that leads to sleep apnea episodes.

Compared to a CPAP machine, the oral alternatives are more comfortable to wear and quieter to use. Another advantage is that these devices travel well and are not complicated. With these natural advantages, it is no wonder that many people with sleep apnea find solace in discussing their condition with their dentist.

If you have questions about sleep apnea, do not delay. In addition to talking with your doctor, consider an appointment with a dentist. A skilled dentist will be able to assess the risk factors you have and look at the anatomy of your mouth and throat. If you are a good candidate for an oral device for treatment, your local dentist can get you started on a fitting right away.

At Alonso Family Dental, we have helped many patients with sleep apnea. Our family practice is proud to serve Missouri City and its surrounding community. Contact our office today for a consultation.

Where can I get a find a dentist that can help with sleep apnea if I need one?

Dr. Carlos Alonso at Alonso Family Dental located in the Missouri City/Sugar Land across from Sienna Plantation is a leader in crown and bridge dentistry. For an examination to evaluate your dental health, just call 281-778-8400.

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