If you’ve been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, you probably know it’s a condition that could be life-threatening.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the soft tissue of the throat relaxes during sleep, blocking the airway. The lapses in breathing can last up to one full minute and cause choking, snorting, and gasping sounds. In addition to the annoyance of loud snoring, OSA is dangerous. Left untreated, it can lead to daytime sleepiness and increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and other serious health conditions.
A telltale sign of OSA is severe snoring, although that in itself doesn’t threaten your health. When the soft tissue structures of the upper airway collapse during sleep, the throat tissues vibrate against each other, causing the sound of snoring. The narrower the airway space, the louder the snoring. About 50% of loud snorers have sleep apnea.
If you suspect that you may have OSA, ask your doctor about undergoing a sleep study, or polysomnogram. In the meantime, you can work with the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, which applies a range of 0-4 to a series of questions about your tiredness to determine if you could have OSA.
Treatment varies. CPAP - Continuous Positive Airway Pressure - is a common device for sleep apnea, but many people cannot tolerate it.
Bull Valley Dentistry, in McHenry, offers an alternative to CPAP. Oral appliance therapy is the use of custom-made devices that reposition the tongue and lower jaw forward, allowing an open airway for unobstructed breathing. Bull Valley’s dentists can fit you with an oral appliance if weight loss, surgery, and positional therapy (sleeping on one’s side instead of back) are not options.
If you believe you might suffer from sleep apnea, or if you would like to learn more about sleep medicine and oral appliance therapy, contact Bull Valley Dentistry at 1-815-322-7689.
By Diane Krieger Spivak
Learn more at www.bullvalleydentistry.com or call 815-322-7688.