Sleep apnea is a common, severe sleep disorder. Patients suffering from sleep apnea suffer from breathing problems while sleeping. Their breathing is abrupt and repeatedly stops and starts and they find themselves gasping for breath throughout the night. The irregular breathing pattern lowers the oxygen level in blood and leads to serious health issues, including cardiovascular problems, ADHD, and depression. Sleep apnea is of the following three types:
1. Obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA is the most common form of sleep apnea. Obesity or excess weight is the leading causes of OSA. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles present in the back of the throat relax and the airway narrows while
breathing. Due to this, patients cannot get enough air while breathing; as a result, their blood-oxygen-level drops. The lowering of blood-oxygen-level triggers the brain to briefly awaken the patient from sleep. This is repeated 5-30 times each hour, every night, impairing the patient's ability to attain a night of deep, restful sleep.
2. Central sleep apnea
Central sleep apnea is the second most common form of sleep apnea. Patients suffering from it experience shortness of breath while sleeping because their brain fails to stimulate the breathing muscles. This means that they forget to breathe for a short period of time while sleeping. As a result, they find themselves awakening multiple times, while gasping, or choking due to loss of breath.
3. Complex sleep apnea
Complex sleep apnea is a complicated combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. It is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is generally characterized by its most common symptom, snoring. Nevertheless, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud and persistent snoring.
- Multiple pauses in breathing.
- Choking, gasping, or snorting sounds while breathing.
- Waking up with a dry throat almost every day.
- Daytime sleepiness accompanied by fatigue.
- Reduction in cognitive skills.
- Morning headaches and body pain.
- Frequent visits to the bathroom during the night.
- Reduction in sexual desires.
How is sleep apnea treated?
Sleep apnea is a common, yet serious problem. If left untreated, it leads to a reduction of cognitive ability, depression, cardiovascular diseases, and stroke. The different methods of treating sleep apnea include:
1. Continuous positive airflow pressure (CPAP) therapy
CPAP therapy is the frontline treatment for sleep apnea. Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure or CPAP uses a mask-like machine to provide a constant stream of airflow that keeps the upper airway open while sleeping.
2. Other breathing devices
If a patient does not respond well to CPAP therapy, other breathing devices are used. They are:
- Expiratory positive airway pressure or EPAP
- Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP or BPAP)
- Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV)
3. Oral appliances
The oral appliances used to treat sleep apnea are custom-designed mouthpieces that enlarge the airway and provide for proper, regular breathing. They are of the following two types.
- Mandibular repositioning mouthpieces: These devices cover the upper and lower dental arches and hold the jaw in position, preventing it from obstructing the upper airway.
- Tongue retaining devices: These appliances lock the tongue in a forward position and prevent it from rolling back and obstructing the upper airway.
4. Sleep apnea implants
Sleep apnea implants are surgically positioned pacemaker systems. They sense the breathing pattern of an individual and stimulate the muscles to keep the airway open for proper and regular breathing during the night.
Surgery is the last option and is performed to treat severe forms of sleep apnea. Surgical procedures like a tonsillectomy, jaw advancement, and tracheostomy are performed to widen the airway. The airway is widened using surgical procedures in the following ways:
- Removing tonsils from the back of the throat.
- Moving the upper and lower jaw forward.
- Creating a hole through the neck into the trachea. A breathing tube is passed through the hole into the windpipe to aid in breathing.
At Murray Dental Care of Cupertino, our entire team of dentists and hygienists is committed to providing supreme quality dental care to our patients and their families. If you are inclined towards taking the first steps to improve your dental health and hygiene, call us at (408) 253-5277 to book an appointment.