Waking up tired and irritable? It could be due to sleep apnea — and your dentist can help.
Restorative sleep is essential for your well-being. Without it, you’ll wake up groggy and irritable. Yet for people with sleep apnea, enjoying forty winks every night is nearly impossible. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates the disorder affects 30 million Americans, preventing them from getting the sleep they need to function at their best during the day.
Many people don’t even know they suffer from sleep apnea, with a reported 80 percent of cases going undiagnosed. But there is one medical professional who can spot the signs of sleep apnea and help you get treatment — an Espire Dental dentist.
What is Sleep Apnea?
The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by weakened muscles at the back of the throat. Those muscles support other parts of your mouth, including the soft palate, uvula (the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate, tonsils, the side walls of the throat, and the tongue.
With sleep apnea, those muscles relax, which constricts the respiratory airways. As you struggle to get oxygen, you abruptly awake numerous times during the night for short periods. Interrupted sleep leads to tossing and turning and insomnia. Loud snoring and gasping for air also indicate a sleep apnea episode.
The majority of sleep apnea sufferers may not even be aware of what is happening during the night. Typically, a partner alerts them to their symptoms, such as snoring and restlessness. Nevertheless, you’ll feel the after-effects of sleep apnea during the day — sleepiness, headaches, and poor concentration.
Obesity is a primary risk factor for sleep apnea. It also statistically affects more men than women. More than just a sleep disorder, sleep apnea has been linked to serious medical conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Therefore, getting treatment not only helps you get the rest you need, but it’s also vital for your overall health. One person who can guide you to the right therapy is your dentist.
How Your Dentist Can Treat Your Sleep Apnea
Although your dentist cannot officially diagnose sleep apnea (only a professional at an accredited sleep center can do so), they can see signs of it from your oral health.
Tooth grinding or bruxism is a particularly noticeable symptom of sleep apnea. As you gnash your teeth during the night, your jaw tenses up. In response, you wake up to get some air. You may not be aware you’re doing it, but grinding your teeth during the night leaves behind telltale signs such as excessive tooth breakage or gum deterioration only your dentist can spot. Other oral markers of sleep apnea include a small jaw or a tongue with scalloped edges. Snoring irritates the throat, which causes redness in that area. Again, your dentist is able to see all those indications through an oral examination.
In addition to a physical exam, your dentist can take X-rays of your mouth and throat. The image could identify large tissues in your throat that’s causing a blockage.
Sleep apnea’s first line of treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. Unfortunately, many people find those machines that wrap around their faces bulky and uncomfortable. Here again, your dentist can help with other treatment methods including these two oral devices:
Mandibular Repositioning Mouthguard. To open up your breathing passageways, this appliance shifts your lower jaw forward and slightly downward. Oral devices are recommended for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Mouthguards are available commercially, but your dentist can devise one that’s a perfect fit for your mouth.
Tongue Retaining Device. If your tongue is blocking your airways, a tongue retaining device keeps it in place so you can sleep peacefully.
Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that can profoundly impact your daily life and health. Let your dentist help you get the treatment you need for a restful slumber every night.
Get Some Rest!
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Fort Collins, CO 80525