Sleep Apnea Therapy
Many people believe that snoring is nothing more than a harmless bad habit, but it may actually be a warning sign of a much more serious problem – sleep apnea. If you experience loud, chronic snoring and you’re worried it is a warning sign that you have sleep apnea, your first thought may not be to visit the dentist for treatment. However, dentists may have the expertise to offer just the treatment you need to sleep soundly and breathe deeply through the night. Dr. Christopher J. Holland and the skilled and caring New Image Dentistry team are happy to provide oral appliance therapy for sleep apnea sufferers. If you want to learn more about sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment, call our San Antonio dental office to schedule a consultation today. If we determine you may be suffering from sleep apnea, our team will partner with a local sleep clinic to schedule a diagnostic sleep study.
What is Sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition in which the patient stops breathing for ten seconds or longer during sleep. Most people experience some apnea events during sleep, but patients with sleep apnea can experience breathing cessation 100s or even thousands of times each night. Mild apnea events may last for just a few seconds, but in some cases, patients can stop breathing for a minute or longer. There are two types of this common sleep disorder. The rarer form of the disorder is known as central sleep apnea, and it occurs when the brain fails to trigger the body to breathe in and out during sleep. Unfortunately, this form of sleep apnea usually requires much more advanced treatments from a sleep doctor or surgeon.
Most sleep apnea patients suffer from obstructive sleep apnea that occurs when the throat muscles relax during sleep and block the airway. These patients typically also struggle with snoring. In both cases, the cause can be traced back to the obstructed airways. This form of sleep apnea accounts for the majority of cases. If left untreated, both forms of sleep apnea can be potentially life threatening as sleep apnea can increase the risk for other serious health problems such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Severe exhaustion
- Illness and fatigue caused by sleep deprivation
Do I Have Sleep Apnea?
The only way for you to be certain you’re suffering from sleep apnea is to undergo a professional sleep study. However, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs in order to communicate your sleep apnea concerns to your dentist or doctor. It’s especial important for high risk patients to be aware of sleep apnea symptoms. Patients considered to be at high risk include men, anyone over the age of 50, patients who are considered medically obese, and those who have a family history of sleep apnea. Some warning signs you may be suffering from sleep apnea include:
- Loud, chronic snoring
- Repeatedly waking gasping or choking at night
- Severe exhaustion even after adequate sleep
- Morning headaches
- Elevated blood pressure
- Mood swings and other unexplained changes in behavior
- Inability to concentrate
- Difficulty keeping track of details and memory loss
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
If we notice you exhibit many of the warning signs of sleep apnea, we will work with a local sleep clinic or at-home sleep study provider to organize your sleep test. These diagnostic assessments use electronic sensors to monitor your vital signs during sleep. They measure the number and length of apnea events as well as incidences of hypopnea, shallow breathing or cessation of breath for less than ten seconds. After the study, the data is collected in a report used to diagnose your sleep disorder.
Why Should I Visit Dr. Holland for Sleep Apnea Treatment?
All dentists have advanced training in oral and facial structures, including the airway. This makes them the ideal providers of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. In addition to holding his doctor of dental surgery from The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Dr. Holland has completed advanced training in dental sleep medicine. Dr. Holland is an active member in the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM). Through the AADSM, Dr. Holland has access to educational resources and tools to help him improve his dental sleep medicine services for patients struggling with snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. He is also able to maximize dental and medical insurance to ensure patients receive affordable sleep apnea therapies.
How Does Oral Appliance Therapy Work?
The traditional treatment prescribed for sleep apnea sufferers is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). These systems use a face mask to cover the mouth and nose attached by hose to air machine that continuously forces air into the lungs during sleep. Even though CPAP therapy can be effective treatment for patients suffering from central and obstructive sleep apnea, more than 50% of patients who use CPAP systems cannot adjust to the sounds and sensations of this treatment. These patients are deemed CPAP intolerant, and many of them receive effective treatment using a custom crafted oral appliance from our team.
A custom-made oral appliance from our San Antonio dental practice will help you keep your airways open, so you continue to breathe normally and easily through the night while also reducing the volume of snoring. Oral Appliance therapy can be an effective, non-invasive treatment option for patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea and snoring. These custom oral appliances shift the jaw forward. The appliances somewhat resemble a sportsguard or other oral appliance, but there are gears that place pressure to move the jaw to a frontward position. This shift in the jaw’s resting position places pressure on the throat muscles, holding the airway open during sleep. If you’ve ever completed training in mouth to mouth resuscitation, you know that tilting the head back and jaw forward to clear the airway is one of the first steps, and oral appliances work in much the same way. When oral appliances are worn each night, the airway remains clear, and patients can sleep soundly and breathe deeply.
Treating snoring or sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy can help you feel like a new person. You will find that your symptoms and your quality of life improve dramatically when you remain committed to your treatment and use your oral appliance nightly. The effects of sleep deprivation are cumulative, and it can take days, weeks, or months to fully recover and feel back to your old self.