Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the soft tissue in one’s throat relaxes, blocking the airway. The lapses in breathing can last up to one full minute and will cause choking, snorting, and gasping sounds. In addition to the annoyance of loud snoring, OSA is dangerous. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to daytime sleepiness and increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and a number of other serious health conditions.
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. Our talented McHenry 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. The CPAP, which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, is a common device for sleep apnea, but many people cannot tolerate it. One telltale sign that you may have OSA is severe snoring, although it 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. It is wise to undergo a sleep study, or polysomnogram, to determine whether you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. 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. If you believe you might suffer from sleep apnea, or if you would like to learn more about sleep medicine and oral appliance therapy, we welcome you to contact us at Bull Valley Dentistry soon.