Sleep apnea is a common yet potentially serious sleep disorder that requires immediate medical attention. It is characterized by interrupted breathing pattern while sleeping- breathing that repeatedly stops and starts-sometimes even hundreds of times. While sleeping, the airflow gets stopped due to the repeated blocking of the upper airway. As a result, the body doesn't get enough oxygen and the brain is forced to jolt you out of your natural sleep rhythm. The most prominent symptoms of sleep apnea occur while you're asleep, which makes it tough to diagnose on your own. You can ask your bed partner to identify these symptoms for you. Some of the major warning signs or symptoms are:
- Loud and persistent snoring.
- Choking or gasping for breath during sleep.
- Continuous pauses in breathing.
- Insomnia or night-time restlessness.
- Waking up almost every night due to shortness of breath.
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Daytime fatigue, exhaustion, and sleepiness.
- Morning headaches, forgetfulness and difficulty while focusing or concentrating.
- Moodiness, constant irritability, or depression.
- Sexual dysfunction or decreased libido.
- Waking up often during the night to urinate.
What are the different types of sleep apnea?
There are three types of sleep apnea. They are:
1. Obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway gets blocked repeatedly during sleep, reducing or completely stopping airflow. As a result, the brain promptly signals the body to breathe. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea and is characterized by loud snoring.
2. Central sleep apnea
Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send a signal to the muscles that control breathing, due to instability in the respiratory control center.
3. Complex sleep apnea
Complex sleep apnea is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea. It occurs when a patient is suffering from both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
What are the complications related to sleep apnea?
If ignored and left untreated, undiagnosed sleep apnea leads to severe complications like:
- Causes sudden drops in oxygen level, which increases the blood pressure abnormally and strains the entire cardiovascular system. It causes hypertension.
- Increases risk of heart attack, stroke, atrial fibrillation, and abnormal heartbeats. If you have already existing heart disease, low oxygen content in the blood while sleeping can lead to sudden death.
- Increases your risk of developing insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.
- Causes metabolic syndrome. It is characterized by high blood sugar levels, hypertension, abnormal cholesterol levels, and an increased waist circumference
- Makes you susceptible to complications during surgery. Patients suffering from sleep apnea are more prone to developing might complications after major surgeries. This is because they experience breathing problems when sedated and lying on their backs.
- Causes liver dysfunction and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Leads to severe problems like impotence, depression, and worsening of ADHD.
- Increases the risk of developing pancreatic, renal, and skin cancers.
- Causes serious eye disorders like glaucoma, dry eye, or keratoconus.
How is sleep apnea treated?
Sleep apnea can be treated with self-care strategies and simple lifestyle changes. But if the symptoms persist, visit your dentist as soon as possible to receive any of the following treatments:
1. Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP)
Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) is used to treat obstructive sleep apnea. A CPAP mask-like machine is worn over the nose and mouth to provide a constant flow of air to keep the airway open while the patient is sleeping.
2. Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (EPAP)
Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) is another sleep apnea treatment device. The EPAP device fits over the patient's nostrils to keep his airway open while sleeping. It is less invasive than CPAP. It is a single-use device and treats mild to moderate forms of obtrusive sleep apnea.
3. Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP or BPAP)
Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP or BPAP) devices are used by patients who cannot adapt to using CPAP or EPAP devices. BPAP devices detect whether a patient is breathing while sleeping and automatically increase air pressure while inhaling and decrease it while decreasing to ensure a regular breathing pattern. If a patient does not breathe for several seconds, a BPAP device will automatically deliver a breath. They are used to treat central sleep apnea.
4. Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV)
Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV) devices are used to treat central sleep apnea and obtrusive sleep apnea. They control the airflow pressure to check frequent pauses in a patient's breathing pattern while they are asleep.
5. Dental Devices
Mandibular repositioning and tongue retaining devices are used to treat mild to moderate forms of sleep apnea. These custom-made dental devices bring a patient's lower jaw or their tongue forward while they are asleep in order to keep the airway open.
6. Sleep apnea implants
Sleep apnea implants use a pacemaker system to stimulate the muscles in order to keep the airways open while a patient is asleep. They treat moderate to severe forms of obstructive sleep apnea.
Dentists try their best to treat sleep apnea with the above treatment options but in case of severe cases, they resort to surgery. A surgical process is employed to expand the size of a patient's airway to ensure a healthy and regular breathing pattern while they are asleep. Sometimes, extra tissue, tonsils, or adenoids are removed from the throat or nose to reconstruct the jaw to expand the upper airway.
At Glenn Dental we employ the practices of modern dentistry to systematically repair damage and enhance the appearance of your smile. Dr. Glenn Ong-Veloso and Dr. Joy Helou will design a custom plan for you to meet your individual requirements. We welcome you to contact us at 760-284-3060 to schedule your consultation with Dr. Glenn Ong-Veloso and Dr. Joy Helou to achieve a picture-perfect smile in Apple Valley and California City, California.