by: Dr. Robert J. Brown
The following is a brief review of sleep apnea, its definition, causes and treatment options. There are two types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea.
OSA is more common and can result from many factors including: excessive weight, large neck, small mouth, large tongue, nasal congestion, long soft palate, enlarged tonsils / adenoids, alcohol or sedatives which relax the airway muscles and smoking. OSA is more common in older males, though OSA can be present in children and infants.
Central sleep apnea is more associated with the brain. With OSA you cannot breathe, but with central sleep apnea you just don’t breathe. This kind of sleep apnea is usually associated with middle age, heart problems, strokes and opioid pain medication.
Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, but the actual obstruction is often further down the airway, and the use of over the counter anti snoring appliances may prevent correction of OSA.
What are some of the symptoms of sleep apnea?
- Loud snoring usually accompanied by episodes of breathing cessation / gasping.
- Abrupt awakening mostly associated with Central Sleep Apnea
- Morning headaches
- Daytime drowsiness / irritability
- Cognitive difficulties such as memory loss / problems with attention.
- Awakening with dry mouth / sore throat.
- Sleepiness when driving.
- Excessive movements during sleep.
What can happen if you don’t get help?
- Incidence of Heart Disease and Cancer increase many fold.
- 200% increase in Alzheimer’s
- Increase in fatal auto accidents.
- Increase in morbidity.
- Loss of bed partner
What can be done? There are many approaches to the treatment of sleep apnea, the most common being the CPAP. Although there have been big improvements in making the CPAP more comfortable, there remains a lack of acceptability. Surgery is occasionally used and varies from implanting a tongue controlling device, to nasal and palatal surgery or maxillofacial surgery, which advances one or both jaws forward. The jaw advancement is wonderful if the patient has an underdeveloped chin. The apnea is reduced and the patient’s appearance is greatly improved.
In my practice we have experienced a very high degree of correction with dental sleep appliances. One very recent success was a wonderful 88 year young lady who suffered severe OSA. Her apneas were reduced to zero with the use of the appliance. I personally wear this appliance and enjoy the correction immensely.
Where do I start? Most treatments are covered by your insurance. At my office the initial exam is complementary, whether or not you are treated by us, and my staff is expert at checking insurance benefits and arranging sleep tests.
It is important to no longer delay. Every day that you deprive your body of proper sleep, damage is being done. One very recent research finding revealed that unless you achieve deep sleep, which doesn’t occur with OSA, your brain cannot release toxins as well.
Dr. Robert J. Brown of Advanced Oral Diagnosis and Treatment Center can be reached at (925) 837-8048. You can also visit his website at www.aodtc.com