Sleep Apnea

/Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea 2021-04-30T11:18:23-05:00

What Is Sleep Apnea, How Does It Affect Health and How Can Your Dentist Help?

Apnea–Hypopnea Index (AHI) is the number of either panic or hypopnic events per hour during sleep.

If your AHI events are greater than 6 or 7 per hour, you may be experiencing mild sleep apnea. If they are greater than 15-30, it’s considered moderate and greater than 30 per hour is severe sleep apnea.

Apnea means to stop breathing.

Hypopnea means an impedance of air to the lungs due to choking or partial obstruction of the airway, gurgling, closing of the airway due to postural changes.

But so what? Why Should I Treat This Condition?

Sleep apnea can affect the oxygen level to your brain and other organs, especially the heart. When heart muscles don’t get enough oxygen, the cells in the heart muscles can die, causing myocardial damage (damage to the muscles of the heart), which in turn can affect your heart rate, the amount of blood pumped through your muscles and the amount of oxygen you can take into your lungs to oxygenate your blood. This can leave you with a heart condition, a lung condition, and also you can feel tired, lethargic.

Treatment is to get a sleep study either at home or at a sleep center. The difference in the two is the number of systems that are checked. A sleep center study checks more than what’s checked at home, but they’re both valid forms of detecting sleep apnea.

If you have a diagnosis of sleep apnea, a breathing apparatus may be recommended. This is a continuous positive air pressure machine, or “CPAP.” Some patients prefer trying an oral appliance, in which case this can be prescribed by your sleep doctor for your dentist to fabricate. This positions your lower jaw and tongue in such a way that it opens the airway, allowing you to breathe better during sleep and reduce the AHI.

In every hygiene visit to Artistic Dentistry, an assessment is done to check the distance between the back of your tongue and your soft palette. If your tongue is too close to the soft palette, you may have a propensity to snoring. Snoring, besides waking you and your family, is a precursor to sleep apnea. So, if you have a propensity to snore, it doesn’t mean you have sleep apnea. It just means you need to check with you partner to see if you stop breathing and, if so, get referred by your dentist to a sleep apnea clinic.

This may also save marriage.

Do You Suspect Sleep Apnea?

The symptoms accompanying sleep apnea can include:

  • Sleepy, tired and/or fatigued during the day
  • Snoring
  • Witnessed Episodes of Cessation of Breathing During Sleep
  • Overweight, High Blood Pressure, Tooth Grinding
  • Non-restorative sleep (wake up tired)
  • Overweight, High Blood Pressure, Tooth Grinding
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Headaches
  • GERD (Gastro Esophagial Reflux Disease)
woman kept awake by man snoring from sleep apnea

A loved one will often notice sleep apnea symptoms first.

Detection. Sometimes a partner will notice that you stop breathing for several seconds multiple times during your sleep. Sometimes this is accompanied by snoring. Before definitive treatment is done a sleep study is required to determine if you have it and how mild or severe it is. That will determine the course of treatment.

Treatment. The common medical treatment is to wear a face mask connected to a machine that pumps air into the mouth and nose, called a continuous positive airway pressure machine or CPAP machine. In some cases, oral appliances can be used in combination with the C-Pap or as a sole therapy. In almost all cases a sleep doctor’s prescription is required by insurance companies for coverage of treatment.

Checking for Sleep Apnea is part of our examination protocol for all patients. We can refer you for a sleep study and if appropriate, make you a Sleep Appliance.