Without proper amounts of sleep, functioning at work or school can be difficult, if not impossible. Currently, nearly one in four adults in the United States suffers from obstructive sleep apnea. This sleep disorder causes the throat muscles to relax and block airflow during sleep. Patients soon experience difficulty sleeping and may run a risk of developing additional medical complications. At Councill Dental Group, we offer the treatment necessary to address sleep apnea, allowing you to rest easy again.
Symptoms and Health Risks of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea, also called OSA, is a common disorder that may cause you to stop breathing for brief intervals during sleep. During these interruptions, the throat closes, leading to breathing cessation. Typically, a sleep apnea sufferer will snore heavily and then stop breathing – sometimes more than a hundred times per night, for a minute or longer each time. Snoring occurs when the airflow becomes partially blocked. When you breathe, the air vibrates soft tissue, causing the sounds we associate with snoring. While snoring is often a symptom, this doesn’t mean everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Along with snoring, other symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Interrupted breathing during sleep
- Choking or gasping during sleep
- Morning headache
- Daytime sleepiness
The Importance of Treating Sleep Apnea
Along with the symptoms we discussed, loss of sleep and lack of breathing may lead to multiple medical problems, including acid reflux, erectile dysfunction, hypertension, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, and an increased risk of stroke.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Dr. R. Terry Councill has extensive training in dental sleep medicine and in the treatment of all sleep apnea conditions. With his team of dental and medical professionals, Dr. Councill will guide you through the proper diagnosis and the various therapies to ensure they find the one that’s right for you.
Our first line of defense is a sleep study to ensure accurate diagnosis. This study will determine if your snoring and breathing difficulties are due to sleep apnea, or upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS). Once we understand the cause and severity of your issue, we can recommend the proper treatment, which may include oral appliances or therapy to open airways, and improve sleep.
Treating Sleep Apnea
For patients with mild to moderate OSA or UARS, we typically manage the condition with an oral appliance that repositions the lower jaw into a more forward position. Oral appliance therapy involves the selection, design, fitting, and use of a custom-designed oral appliance worn during sleep to maintain an open, unobstructed airway. These appliances are referred to as mandibular repositioning appliances (MRAs), and are similar to orthodontic retainers, or sports mouth guards.
For severe OSA or UARS, your medical doctor may recommend a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask. Although helpful to many, CPAP may be difficult to use. Many times, with the proper diagnosis through a qualified sleep specialist, we can treat OSA and UARS with a splint (oral appliance therapy) instead of the CPAP. If CPAP is necessary, the two devices may be combined to lower CPAP pressure.