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What is Sleep Apnea?

Effective Treatment from Our Skilled Albuquerque Dentists

Sleep apnea is a temporary cessation of breathing during sleep that can last anywhere from a few seconds to over one minute. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive (due to a physical collapse of the airway), central (brain does not signal muscles to allow breathing), and mixed (combination of obstructive and central). While central and mixed apneas are not rare, the majority of sleep apneas are obstructive.

During an apneic event there is great strain on the heart and the reduction of oxygen in the body leads to a somatic chain of events that can result in a myriad of symptoms ranging from relatively benign excessive nighttime urination to fatal cardiac arrest. The brain responds to this oxygen desaturation by attempting to physically move the body in order to dislodge the soft tissues blocking the airway as well as disturbing your progression through the natural and necessary stages of sleep, resulting in excessive daytime fatigue.

The side effects of sleep apnea are serious, and can even be life-threatening. An individual with sleep apnea is at a greater risk for suffering conditions like a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. Apneic individuals are also at a greater risk for developing depression, gastric reflux, weight gain, and more.

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What happens during an apneic event?

In an obstructive apneic event, breathing either stops completely (apnea) or is shallow (hypopnea), most often due to a collapse of the soft tissues of the airway. Commonly, breathing is blocked at the back of the throat because your muscles relax while sleeping and your lower jaw can sink backward. The tongue follows the jaw and, along with other soft tissues, causes the airway to collapse. While choking, the body’s oxygen saturation drops and the brain does not readily distinguish between being underwater or simply lying in bed not breathing.

Your brain may cause your arms and legs, or whole body, to jerk in order to wake you. Additionally, it may attempt to remove the tongue from the throat by moving the lower jaw, which may result in aggressive night time clenching and/or grinding of the teeth. There is also a hormonal response, which can lead to a variety of negative effects internally, ultimately and over time resulting in disease. Once your brain successfully wakes you to end the choking, sleep resumes and you repeat this process again and again. For some, this cycle may occur hundreds of times per night.

Signs & Symptoms of OSA

Because obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs during one’s sleep, it is not always easy to recognize.

Each patient is unique but if you recognize a combination of the following symptoms in yourself or a loved one, please consider contacting our office for a sleep medicine consultation:

  • Snoring
  • Your bed partner has noticed your breath ceasing while you sleep
  • You are unable to finish reading or watching a movie without falling asleep
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diabetes
  • Acid reflux
  • Nocturia (excessive nighttime urination)
  • Weight gain
  • Kicking/jerking leg(s) while asleep
  • Waking up choking or gasping for air
  • Dry throat and mouth in the morning
  • Morning headaches
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • ADD/ADHD symptoms
  • Feeling sleepy while sitting in traffic
  • Dozing off while driving
  • Regularly waking up during the night
  • Slow metabolism
  • Excessively sleep during the day

Do You Snore? It Might Mean Something More...

Snoring may seem like a trivial quirk or just a simple nuisance for bed partners. However, snoring is actually one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea. Additionally, research has shown that even mild snoring can place individuals at risk for carotid artery atherosclerosis and stroke. If your snoring is loud, you should take it as an indication of an underlying medical condition or as a risk factor. Seeking a therapeutic remedy for the snoring is recommended. You should also seek medical attention to see if you do suffer from a sleep breathing disorder.

How can we help you?

At Dental House, we offer oral appliance therapy for treating obstructive sleep apnea. The standard sleep apnea device is a machine known as a CPAP (“continuous positive air pressure”). However, a custom fabricated oral appliance can provide greater comfort and convenience; we offer both options for our patients. Our clinic focuses on oral wellness and prioritizes our patients' needs.

Custom-Made Appliances

Our custom-made therapy devices holds your lower jaw in place, which prevents your tongue and soft tissues from obstructing your breathing. To create a custom device for you, you will need to visit our clinic multiple times and undergo a series of sleep testing. This is all to ensure that your device is exactly correct and precise.

This device is not simply a "snore guard" that addresses the one symptom. Its purpose and design is to make you able to breath properly while you sleep. Dental House uses state-of-the-art technology and the best-practice standards of clinical care to ensure that your potentially life-threatening apneic condition is properly treated.

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Diagnosis

The only way to diagnose sleep apnea is to undergo sleep studies. During these studies, a physician will monitor your breathing during sleep and determine the nature of your condition and what therapy is right for you. You can discuss the details of this first step by contacting us for a consultation: (505) 835-2322.

Sleep Study

In-Lab Study

For an in-lab study, patients will sleep in a laboratory or other monitored room. He or she will be strapped with wiring from their head to their legs, and will be observed by a technician.

Home Study

A home study is much more comfortable, as the patient may sleep in their own bed with only a device on their head. One downside of a home study is that if the device falls off during the night, the test will have to be retaken, whereas these mistakes can be addressed immediately in an in-lab study. Another minor difference is that in-lab study results are often procured faster. When you meet with us in a consultation, we will discuss your options and help determine which type of sleep study is best-suited for your needs and preferences.

Factoids

  • Heavy snoring can complicate the underwriting of life insurance due to its relation to OSA.
  • People with untreated moderate to severe OSA are four times more likely to have a stroke and three times more likely to have cancer.
  • A 2010 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that up to 72% of stroke victims had sleep disordered breathing (SDB) – of which, only about 7% were central with the rest obstructive in nature.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Foundation (NHTSF) estimated that in 2013, 72,000 crashes and 800 deaths were due to drowsy driving.

Read Why Our Patients Leave Smiling

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