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What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep breathing disorder and a very serious medical condition. It is characterized by pauses and interruptions in breathing. These pauses can occur as many as 40 times in a single minute, and in some cases, the pauses can last for up to a minute.

How common is sleep apnea?

It is estimated that as many as 15 million people suffer from sleep apnea. Many people with this condition are unaware that they have it and wake feeling as if they have received little or no sleep because they have spent the night fighting to breathe normally and receive needed oxygen.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

Sleep apnea needs to be diagnosed by a sleep physician. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have sleep apnea, we recommend contacting your regular physician. They can refer you to a specialist and help you make arrangements to participate in a sleep study to diagnose the problem and determine how severe your sleep apnea is.

What are the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea?

Common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Snoring, especially with pauses in breathing
  • Insomnia
  • Sleepiness and fatigue during the day
  • Restless sleep and frequent nighttime urination
  • Falling asleep while driving, working and reading
  • Gasping and choking sensations and sounds while asleep
  • A sore throat upon waking
  • Headaches upon waking
  • Depression, anxiety and mood changes
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty concentrating and memory impairment
How is sleep apnea treated?

The two most common treatments for sleep apnea are CPAP machines and oral appliance therapy. CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is a machine that sits beside your bed and blows air through an attachable mask to keep your airways open and help you breathe easily. While CPAP is the gold standard in sleep apnea treatment and can provide outstanding long-term results, many people find that they cannot tolerate this treatment and receive oral appliance therapy as an alternative. Oral appliances are designed to fit comfortably and help keep your airways open while asleep so that you can breathe normally. In severe cases, surgical procedures may be recommended to treat sleep apnea.

What happens if sleep apnea is untreated?

Sleep apnea is linked to a number of other medical issues, as well as lifestyle risks. These include:

  • An increased risk of accidents while driving and at work
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Weight gain
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver problems
  • Problems with the respiratory and immune systems
  • Problems with hormone production
  • Poor overall quality of life
What should I do if I think I might have sleep apnea?

Contact our office. Our dentist will work with you, your physician and any necessary sleep physicians to diagnose the problem and provide you with the treatments you need. Our highest priority is improving your health and quality of life.

Will my insurance cover treatment for sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea treatments are often covered by most medical insurance providers and Medicare. Your dental insurance provider will not provide coverage, as sleep apnea is considered a medical condition. We recommend checking with your insurance to verify your coverage.

How does oral appliance therapy work?

Oral appliance therapy works by gently repositioning the lower jaw into a slightly forward position. This moves the tongue forward and tightens the soft tissues of the throat, keeping the airway open and creating better muscle tone in the area so that you can breathe naturally and easily.

Who is a good candidate for oral appliance therapy?

Oral appliance therapy is a good option for people who suffer from mild to moderate sleep apnea. Candidates for oral appliance include:

  • Anyone who snores
  • Anyone who has already been diagnosed with sleep apnea
  • Anyone who cannot tolerate a CPAP machine
  • Anyone suffering from the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea