What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea (the cessation of airflow for more than 10 seconds during sleep) is a very serious and potentially life-threatening condition caused by the periodic collapse of the pharyngeal airway during sleep. Collapse can occur due to a decrease in muscle tone of the pharynx, palate and tongue, or from abnormal anatomy around the level of the soft palate, base of the tongue and lower jaw. During apnea airflow is restricted despite continued efforts to breathe, until the person is awakened with a gasp of air. It is estimated that 4% of middle age men and 2% of middle age women have Sleep Apnea. This condition is also more prevalent among the obese, and among older individuals.
How can your dentist help to treat your Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea can be treated non-surgically or surgically. The non-surgical methods include: correcting behavioral measures such as weight loss, elimination of alcohol and sedatives at night, avoiding large, late night meals and avoiding sleeping face up. Oral or dental appliances may be useful in mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea and for improving snoring by repositioning the jaw, tongue and palate to create a better flow of air. Side effects may include an increase in salivation and some TMJ discomfort.