Sleep apnea is a type of sleep breathing disorder that occurs due to obstructions in the airway while a person sleeps. These obstructions typically happen when the lower jaw falls backward, the muscles in the throat relax, and soft tissue collapses into the airway, cutting off the ability to breathe. This disrupts the sleep cycle, as the body and brain react in alarm to the blockage.
Sleep apnea patients also have a much higher risk factor for developing serious, potentially life-threatening health issues, such as obesity, heart disease, stroke, depression, or cognitive decline.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Diagnosis
Snoring is considered to be a major warning sign of a sleep breathing disorder, such as sleep apnea. Other symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Problems concentrating
- Irritability or mood swings
- Restless sleep
- Bruxism (teeth grinding) while asleep
Children with sleep apnea often exhibit symptoms that mimic a hyperactivity disorder, such as ADHD.
The only way to know for sure if you have sleep apnea is to undergo an evaluate by a sleep apnea specialist such as Dr. Brian J. Hockel. By conducting a thorough evaluation of your oral health, bite alignment, and airway, Dr. Hockel can determine whether you suffer from a sleep breathing disorder. A sleep study may be necessary to aid in the diagnostics. The dental practice of Life Dental & Orthodontics offers at-home sleep studies that can be conducted in the comfort of your own home.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
CPAP – Force air into the airway
The most popular treatment prescribed for sleep apnea is to wear a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, and this machine covers your nose and mouth, keeping air and oxygen flowing into your airway and forcing it open. However, CPAP users often find that the machine is bulky, noisy, and inconvenient to use. Therefore, CPAP uses often discontinue therapy after only a few months.
Oral Appliance – Temporarily reposition the jaw
In dentistry, the use of an oral appliance is another popular choice to treat sleep apnea. While we do prescribe oral appliances at times for sleep apnea patients, here at the dental practice of Life Dental & Orthodontics, we do not believe that oral appliance therapy is a one-size-fits-all approach to treating sleep apnea.
Oral appliance therapy does have its benefits. It is relatively inexpensive compared to other treatment options, such as surgery or CPAP; it is also more convenient, travels easier, and typically resolves cases of sleep apnea that are mild to moderate. However, prolonged used of an oral appliance may cause eventual issues, such as bite misalignment, and the results from an oral appliance can be a gradual process.
Surgery – Permanently reposition the jaw
For a permanent solution to your sleep apnea, surgery may be the best option. Surgery seeks to correct the issues that cause sleep apnea by moving the jaws into the proper position to maintain an open airway. Performed correctly, jaw surgery fixes sleep apnea by addressing the cause and eliminates the need for other treatments, such as CPAP or oral appliances. Surgery can also address any potential issues with the nasal airways or soft palate. The major negatives are that surgery is the most expensive and intensive treatment for sleep apnea, and any surgery carries a certain amount of risk.
If you or a member of your family is exhibiting the symptoms of sleep apnea, this disorder will not go away on its own. Call our office today at (925) 934-3434 to schedule an initial consultation with us for your sleep apnea treatment in Walnut Creek, California.
Dr. Brian Hockel and our team at Life Dental & Orthodontics are proud to serve patients from Walnut Creek, Clayton, Concord, and Lafayette, California, as well as from the greater San Francisco East Bay area and beyond.