Sleep apnea must be diagnosed by medical doctor who will also provide a prescription for a dental appliance
Sleep apnea is a disorder that results in the momentary cessation of breathing throughout the night.
The word apnea comes from the Greek term for "α" which means "without" and "TTVεεiv" which means "to breathe". So, it can be translated as “without breathing”.
These involuntary pauses in breathing might seem like a small thing, but for some people, they occur up to sixty or more times per hour for a duration of up to 30 seconds each time. That’s almost FOUR hours of no breathing in an 8-hour time span! One of the diagnostic criteria for sleep apnea syndrome is 15 episodes of breathing cessation in one hour of sleep.
As a dentist in Victoria, we are dedicated to helping you avoid the perils that come with sleep apnea, a disorder that affects both your physical and emotional health.
While you may not be aware of it, breathing cessation will wake you up suddenly with a gasp for air as your body responds to a lack of oxygen – it is heralded by heavy (and sometimes very loud!) snoring. When this happens several times a night, getting a restful, restorative sleep is impossible for you and your partner. You’re nowhere near being prepared for the day ahead.
If you’re thinking it’s just a bit of snoring, you need to know these facts:
- Sleep apnea contributes to an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, weight gain, memory problems, or premature death. Also, 75- 100% of patients have gastroesophageal reflux disease or laryngopharyngeal reflux due to increased intrathoracic pressure.
- The Centers For Disease Control reports that up to 6,000 fatal crashes a year are caused by drowsy driving.
Risk factors include: obesity, age, menopause, craniofacial abnormalities, smoking, alcohol use, drug use, heart diseases and family history. According to the studies, men are most likely to suffer from this disorder.
Keep in mind that also small children can suffer from sleep apnea. In children, sleep apnea is usually caused by a narrowed airway and the inability to get enough oxygen. Children should not snore while sleeping. The symptoms are similar to the ones adults have, but in their case, the disorder may be more difficult to recognize, that is why parents are advised to monitor the little ones’ sleep time to time. If left untreated, sleep apnea can affect the child’s normal growth and general health, such as ADHD and behavioural problems.
Often a sleep partner identifies sleep apnea in a loved one, but what if you live alone? Here’s a checklist that will help you determine if you should be checked for sleep apnea.
Do you experience…?
- disturbed sleep
- morning headaches
- waking with a sore or dry throat
- difficulty concentrating
- depression or irritability
- learning and memory difficulties
- sexual dysfunctions
- sleepiness while at work, on the phone, or while driving.
If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, a sleep study can be prescribed by your primary care physician, who can then prescribe a dental appliance.
You should know that not all people who snore have sleep apnea. Regular snoring does not affect the quality of sleep at the level apnea does. So you will not feel extreme fatigue during the day.
Polygraphy is a non-invasive and painless diagnostic method for the patient, which consists in mounting on the patient's chest a small device that must be worn during the night. This device records a number of parameters:
- chest movements
- nose air flow
- break periods
- pulse rate
- the amount of oxygen in the blood.
Polysomnography is performed on an outpatient basis, under infrared audio and video surveillance.
It is recommended when the diagnosis of sleep apnea is not clear (following the patient's questionnaire) or there are other associated diseases, such as insomnia.
The patient’s sleep is monitored (with the help of electrode wires mounted on his scalp, forehead, chest, etc. or the bands around his abdomen).
Whether or not you have been already diagnosed with sleep apnea, MATRx plus is a test that can predict if your sleep apnea will be effectively treated with an oral appliance and the position to set your mandible. This means you will be able to start effective therapy, faster.
To complete the test, you will need to wear a small monitor around your waist and attach sensors to your body for few nights. The sensors record airflow in and out of your nose, your breathing pattern, snoring, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and the position you sleep in (i.e. on your back, side or stomach). You will also be provided with titration trays custom made to your mouth. These trays will be connected to a small motor that will move your lower jaw continuously, slowly and in small increments through the nights to keep your airway open, finally finding the ideal position for the airway to be wide open.
Sleep apnea treatment
If you are diagnosed, most probably you could be prescribed a CPAP machine – you’ve likely seen photos of its mask and air hose. But some people simply can’t tolerate it. Because of that, we want you to know about another choice – a custom-fitted dental appliance.
You should be aware, that all cases of sleep apnea cannot be treated with a dental appliance, such as sleep apnea caused by palatal prolapse.
Sleep apnea is probably not something you’d think to go to your dentist about – let alone search online for a dentist in Victoria who can help treat it. But if you have, we’re glad you found us, because at Pacifica Dental, we’re trained in the science of treating sleep apnea with a small comfortable custom-fitted dental appliance that you wear at night, during sleep hours.
A custom-fitted dental appliance to prevent episodes of sleep apnea is:
- convenient – after your diagnosis at a sleep clinic, we fabricate it for you and ensure its adjusted perfectly to your mouth and jaw
- comfortable – small, light, and unobtrusive … so you’ll actually wear it!
- portable – fits in your pocket
- silent – no humming machine or blowing air
- non-surgical – there’s no downtime.
The device is composed of two bite guards (for the upper and lower arch). It allows the airways to remain open due to the fact that it keeps the mandible in an advanced position. Improves sleep quality, the patient no longer snores and no longer experiences episodes of shortness of breath.
Depending on the severity of the condition (mild, moderate or severe apnea), measures related to the change of daily habits could also be indicated.
A side effect of a sleep apnea appliance is the opening of spaces between the back teeth, resulting in food collection and may require more home care protocols to manage.
Not everyone is a candidate for the sleep apnea appliance, but many are. Sleep apnea must be diagnosed by a medical doctor who will also provide a prescription for a dental appliance.
Yours in excellent dental health,
Drs. Cristina and Bogdan Coca, dentists in Victoria, BC