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How Can Your Dentist Help You Breathe Easier?

Sleep apnea or the Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) may affect 20 percent of all adults.

That is 1 in every 5 people!  To live a healthy, normal life, breathing is always important it turns out.   Most people and surely most dentists recognize the dangers of sleep apnea.  Our office now offers a solution to help patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea.  As an added bonus, the dental appliance for sleep apnea also is helpful with snoring.

The Herbst Appliance for Sleep Apnea and snoring

Silent Night Appliance for Snoring

Common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
  • Waking up tired after a full night’s sleep (7 hours or so).
  • Loud or frequent snoring.
  • Lapses or pauses in breathing.
  • Nighttime twitches as your body startles and tries to breathe.
  • You may make choking or gasping sounds.
  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue.
  • Headaches especially in the morning.
  • Waking during the night to pee
  • Feeling irritable or unfriendly (when this is not your nature).
  • Inability to concentrate or remember well

We do a simple screening exam in our office to judge the available space at the back of your throat for breathing.  We use a Mallampati score of 1 – 4.  If your airway is so closed down that we cannot see the uvula or any space at the back of your palate into your throat, you are WAY more likely to have problems with sleep apnea.

There are always exceptions to the rules!

You are much more likely to have sleep apnea if you are overweight or obese. However, sleep apnea can occur in thin people too.

There is more to OSAS or Sleep Apnea than snoring!

The potential lack of oxygen can cause:

  • Depression – when the brain is denied needed rest, depression can set in.  That’s bad!
  • High blood pressure – just another concern especially as our population ages.
  • Heart disease – when there is not enough oxygen in the circulated blood, organs such as the brain and the heart can be severely affected
  • OSAS or Sleep Apnea can also be linked to strokes and hearty rhythm irregularities.
  • About 80 percent of patients dealing with Type 2 diabetes are also dealing with OSAS (Dental Products Report, September 2018, “How dentists can help patients breathe easy” by Dr. John Flucke.)
  • If you do not sleep well, you are much more likely to fall asleep while driving potentially harming you and anyone else with you or that you run into!  Severe daytime sleepiness is of course a major risk factor for motor vehicle accidents.

What is involved in a proper diagnosis?

  1. A sleep study or Nocturnal polysomnography test. You are hooked up to equipment that monitors your heart, lung and brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep.
  2. A Home sleep tests from your doctor to measure your heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow and breathing patterns.
  3. A pulse occimeter study
  4. A sleep physician to interpret the study.  Note this is probably not covered by insurance!

If the tests show mild to moderate sleep apnea, our office might be able to help by making you a custom appliance designed to keep your throat open by bringing your lower jaw forward.  An appliance might be easier to use for many people than a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device.  These oral devices will also relieve snoring in many cases.  Actually, some simpler snoring devices may relieve Sleep apnea as an added bonus.

A number of devices are available from our office.  We can help you find one that works for your situation.  You can bring your appliance in with you for your regular cleaning appointments and we will clean your appliance as well.  We will also assure that the fit is good and evaluate your signs and symptoms.  See more of snoring and sleep apnea appliances on our website at www.juliegillisdds.com See “Our Services” Under General Dentistry!  We love helping our patients be as healthy and comfortable as possible!

Yours for better dental health, Julie Gillis, DDS, AAACD

Restoring Teeth/Restoring Smiles