Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea Treatments

Sleep apnea is a term often recognized by many but is a condition that frequently goes undiagnosed. According to the National Sleep Foundation, over 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea but are unaware of the fact that their sleep is being disrupted. Usually, it is your partner or spouse who begins to complain of loud snoring that prompts a visit to the doctor’s office along with physical symptoms that can be telltale signs of the condition as well.

Once you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea by your primary care physician, Dr. Kohani can fit you for a mandibular advancement device that curbs your symptoms. By treating your sleep apnea disorder, not only will you breathe easier, but you will also improve your bodily health and quality of life, which is a priority at La Jolla Cosmetic Dentistry & Orthodontics in San Diego.

The Impact of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is characterized by frequent pauses in breathing as you sleep. These pauses can last for seconds or minutes, which are then followed by loud snorts or choking as you resume breathing normally. The condition is tough to diagnose since it only occurs while you sleep, and it is usually someone who shares a bed with you who notices your abnormal breathing patterns. Although you may not see that sleep apnea is affecting your ability to sleep soundly, it can significantly impact your alertness during the day and, if left undiagnosed, take a toll on your bodily health. When you stop breathing and suddenly resume inhalation, you are unknowingly taken out of deep sleep and placed into a lighter sleep cycle, which impacts how you feel during the day.

You will often notice the symptoms of sleep apnea when you are awake; you may feel sleepy even though you have received a full night’s rest. Additionally, you may have poor reaction times or blurred vision, which can be attributed to the many disruptions that sleep apnea causes. Because these symptoms are common for a variety of conditions, sleep apnea is not immediately thought of as the culprit. However, a misdiagnosis can cause the condition to progress, and the continual deprivation of oxygen to your body can create adverse effects.

Sleep apnea has been shown to lead to:

  • Hypertension
  • Heart attack and stroke
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Diabetes
  • Weight gain

Sleep apnea can also severely impact your attentiveness, which can lead to more driver and work-related accidents, putting your life and the life of someone else at risk. Although it is the leading cause of daytime fatigue, sleep apnea often remains undetected by medical professionals.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

The most common form of the condition is obstructive sleep apnea (or OSA), which occurs when the muscles in the airway become so relaxed that they collapse or become blocked, causing shallow and disrupted breathing. The other form of sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, is much less common and occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles responsible for breathing, causing short pauses in breathing. Most of the patients who come into Dr. Kohani’s office for sleep apnea treatment are doing so for symptoms related to obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition, which means that treatment is usually life-long as well. Certain lifestyle habits like weight loss or dietary changes can alleviate some symptoms; however, certain factors cannot be controlled and require medical intervention to correct the condition. Sleep apnea is more common in men over the age of 40 and who tend to have sinus issues as a result of a deviated septum. Other factors include having a larger tongue or tonsils, heredity, and obesity.

Creating a Diagnosis

Because sleep apnea is so difficult to diagnose, tests often have to be performed in the form of a sleep study in a clinician’s office. The study measures how often these short pauses in breathing occur per hour and compare them to the symptoms you have been experiencing while awake.

Your Treatment Options

Dr. Kohani uses a mandibular advancement device to treat sleep apnea, which looks very similar to a mouthpiece. The purpose of the device is to support the jaw and push the tongue forward so that your airway no longer becomes obstructed. With your jaw and tongue lifted, air will be able to pass through easily, keeping you breathing continuously throughout the night. The mouthpiece is custom-fitted to rest comfortably on your teeth as you sleep so that you hardly notice its presence.

The mandibular advancement device is a modern solution for sleep apnea treatment, which is traditionally corrected with the use of a noisy and uncomfortable CPAP machine. Although the CPAP is effective when opening up the airways, many patients have trouble growing accustomed to the machine and don’t see a decline in their symptoms. A mouthpiece, however, is small, compact and won’t disrupt your sleep with any noise. And because it is customized to fit your dentition specifically, it should be completely comfortable to wear while you sleep.

If you are suffering from sleep apnea, then contact La Jolla Cosmetic Dentistry & Orthodontics at 858-295-0603 and schedule a consultation for a simple nighttime appliance that will change the way you sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sleep Apnea

If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, you may have obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, or a combination of both (complex sleep apnea).

  • Loud snoring that wakes your partner
  • Period pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Fatigue and sleepiness when awake, even after a full night of sleep
  • Frequently waking up gasping for air
  • Difficulty remaining asleep
  • Headaches when you wake
  • Excessive dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Difficulty concentrating

Overnight sleep studies performed in a sleep lab or at home are used to diagnose sleep apnea. Special equipment is used to monitor your breathing, brain waves, leg and eye movements, heart rate, and other criteria while you sleep. A specially trained medical professional analyzes the results to determine if you have sleep apnea, what type, and how severe.

This is the medical term for a sleep study, usually performed in a sleep disorders clinic.

Self-administered home sleep studies are growing in popularity to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. A sleep clinic provides you with a finger clip, monitor, belt, and nasal cannula, along with instructions for their temporary use over two nights or more. The device monitors and measures airflow, blood oxygen saturation, and respiration.

AHI stands for Apnea-Hypopnea Index. This measures the severity of a patient’s sleep apnea. It refers to the total number of breathing pauses (apneas) and shallow breathing periods (hypopneas) that a sleep apnea sufferer averages each hour during sleep. Each apnea and hypopnea must last 10 seconds or longer to be included. The total number of apnea events is then divided by the total hours of sleep during the measurement period.

Your obstructive sleep apnea may be mild (5 to 15 AHI), moderate (15 to 30 AHI), or severe (greater than 30 AHI).

With constructive sleep apnea, the relaxation of your throat, tongue muscles, and soft palate lead to a partial airflow blockage, which causes pauses in breathing. A MAD pulls your jaw and tongue slightly forward, creating more space to prevent obstruction and creating a less-restricted airway. The forward positioning of your tongue also prevents it from falling to the back of your throat, so it doesn’t cause partial obstruction while you sleep. This also tightens other significant muscles in your throat, further widening your air passageway.

If you have sleep apnea, Dr. Kohani can assist you with a mandibular advancement device. Many people are not aware that their sleep apnea systems can be curbed with this device—provided by your dentist. Be sure to ask Dr. Kohani about this device during your next check-up and dental cleaning appointment.

When used regularly, CPAP machines can be very effective for sleep apnea treatment. Unfortunately, most people have trouble with compliance. It’s large and noisy. Plus, the mask is hard to get used to. A MAD is small, portable, unobtrusive, and easy to use. Nightly use is much simpler to comply with.