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How Your Dentist Can Help With Sleep Apnea

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The Johns Hopkins University reports that "45 percent of adults snore occasionally, while 25 percent snore regularly." Do you snore? Do you have trouble staying asleep? Are you always tired during the day? If so, your problem may be bigger than simply snoring. You may have sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that causes disruptions in your breathing while you sleep. These disruptions can cause loud snoring, gasping for air, and insomnia. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to more serious health problems like heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

If you think you have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor first, but your dentist can also help. Here's what you need to know.

Are There Different Types of Sleep Apnea?  

The American Medical Association reports that roughly "30 million people in the United States have sleep apnea". There are two main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the more common of the two types of sleep apnea. It happens when your throat muscles relax and inadvertently block your airway while sleeping. This can happen several times a night and can result in loud snoring as well as brief periods of not breathing.
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA) is less common but just as serious. It occurs when your brain doesn't send the right signals to your muscles to keep them active and breathing regularly. CSA usually happens in conjunction with other medical conditions like heart disease or stroke.

Why Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

If you think snoring is just a nuisance, think again. Loud snoring can actually be a sign of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can cause insomnia, daytime fatigue, and moodiness. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to more serious health problems like heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, which is why it is important to talk to a medical professional if you think you may have sleep apnea.

What Can Your Dentist Do To Help?

Your dentist can help with sleep apnea by either recommending or providing an oral appliance. Oral appliances are custom-fit devices that look similar to mouthguards used for contact sports but are worn in bed instead of on the field. Oral appliances from your dentist work by holding your tongue and lower jaw in a forward position so that your airway stays open throughout the night, preventing snoring and helping you maintain normal breathing while you sleep.

If you think you may have sleep apnea, don't wait to get help. Talk to your doctor first, but also enlist the help of your dentist. Your dentist can discuss how sleep apnea treatments can help you and get you on the path to a good night's rest.