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Posts for tag: sleep apnea

By Dr. Mark C. Pothitakis
December 18, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sleep apnea  
YourDentistMayBeAbleToProvideYouWithaSleepApneaSolution

Morning tiredness, brain fog and snoring are just some of the indicators of a medical condition known as sleep apnea. And, it's worse than waking up on the wrong side of the bed—over time, sleep apnea could increase your risk for heart disease or other life-threatening conditions.

Sleep apnea occurs when air flow becomes restricted during sleep, usually by the tongue blocking the airway. As oxygen levels begin to fall, the brain signals the body to wake up to "fix" the air flow problem.

As this arousal may only last a second or two, you may not remember it when you awaken in the morning. But it can happen numerous times a night, depriving you of the deep sleep your body needs for rest and repair.

Fortunately, there are ways to treat sleep apnea. In extreme instances, you may need surgery to correct anatomical defects causing the condition. For most cases, though, the most common treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which consists of a portable pump delivering pressurized air through a face mask that keeps the throat open while you sleep.

Used by millions of patients, CPAP can be quite effective. Some patients, though, feel uncomfortable using a CPAP machine for various reasons. If you're one of those unhappy CPAP campers or you would like to consider a possible alternative, your dentist might have the answer: oral appliance therapy (OAT).

An OAT device is worn in the mouth during sleep to prevent the tongue from falling back against the back of the throat and blocking the airway. There are various forms of OAT appliances, but they're all custom-made by a dentist to fit an individual patient's mouth. They work best for mild to moderate sleep apnea in which the tongue is the primary culprit in airway blockage.

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, you should undergo a complete examination by a doctor or dentist to confirm it. If you've been diagnosed with mild to moderate sleep apnea, talk to your dentist about an OAT device. You may find OAT can provide you the relief you need for a better night's sleep.

If you would like more information on oral treatments for sleep apnea, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “If You Snore, You Must Read More!

By Dr. Mark C. Pothitakis
July 03, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: snoring   sleep apnea  
ThisOralApplianceCouldHelpSolveYourSleepApneaProblem

Millions of people have obstructive sleep apnea—and some don’t even realize it. That’s because even though these airway-blocking episodes can occur several times a night, they may only last a few seconds. The brain rouses the body just long enough to open the airway but not long enough to awaken the person to consciousness.

Even though a person with sleep apnea might not remember what happened to them, they can still experience the effects of sleep disturbance: drowsiness, irritability or an inability to focus. Over time, the accumulation of “bad sleep” could increase their risk for heart disease or other life-threatening conditions.

But there are effective ways to alleviate or lessen obstructive sleep apnea. The main “go-to” treatment is a method called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP utilizes an electric pump that supplies a constant flow of pressurized air through a mask worn by the patient while sleeping. The increased air pressure around the throat helps keep the airway open.

But although it’s effective, CPAP is unpopular with many people who have tried it. Many find the hose and other equipment cumbersome, or the mask too uncomfortable or restrictive to wear. As a result, quite a number simply avoid using it.

If you’ve had a similar experience with CPAP or would rather explore other options, we may have an alternative: an oral appliance you wear while you sleep. It can help prevent or lessen symptoms in cases of mild to moderate airway obstruction caused by the tongue or other forms of tissue.

Sleep apnea appliances come in two basic forms. One uses metal hinges to help move the lower jaw and tongue forward. The other form has a compartment that fits around the tongue and applies suction to help keep the tongue moved forward.

These appliances may not be suitable for patients with severe sleep apnea or whose cause is something other than a physical obstruction like abnormal neurological signaling patterns. But where they are appropriate, they can be an effective alternative to CPAP and the key to a better night’s sleep.

If you would like more information on this dental solution for sleep apnea, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea.”

By Dr. Mark C. Pothitakis
January 20, 2016
Category: Oral Health
Tags: snoring   sleep apnea  
SleepApneaandBehavioralProblemsinChildrenHowYourDentistCanHelp

We all know how much better we feel after a good night’s sleep: refreshed, energized and ready to handle — even excel at — our day-to-day responsibilities. Yet millions of people, young and old, are robbed of a good night’s rest by sleep-related breathing disorders such as sleep apnea, in which the soft tissues in the back of the throat block the airway during sleep. This temporarily disrupts airflow, causing numerous “micro-arousals” (sleep interruptions) that we may not even be aware of. A lack of sleep can make us drowsy, irritable and unfocused. In children, these typical symptoms of sleep apnea can lead to mistaken diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The relationship between sleep apnea and behavioral problems has been highlighted in several recent scientific journal articles, including a major study published several years ago in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The lead author, Dr. Karen Bonuck, said at the time: “We found that children with sleep-disordered breathing were from 40 to 100 percent more likely to develop neurobehavioral problems by age 7, compared with children without breathing problems. The biggest increase was in hyperactivity, but we saw significant increases across [other] behavioral measures.” Therefore, an accurate diagnosis of a child’s behavioral problems — leading to the right treatment — is crucial. While sleep apnea must be diagnosed by a physician, treatment for the condition is often provided by a dentist.

What can be done for children suffering from sleep apnea? The most common treatment is surgical removal of the tonsils or adenoids. This treatment can sometimes be performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, a dentist who has received several years of post-graduate surgical training. There are several other procedures oral surgeons can perform to open the airway, depending on what anatomical structures are blocking it.

Sometimes a child with sleep apnea can benefit from a procedure to expand the palate (roof of the mouth) to enlarge the airway. This is not a surgical treatment but rather an orthodontic one. An orthodontist (a dentist who specializes in moving teeth) will fit the child with a palatal expander, a butterfly-shaped device that gradually separates the two bones that form the upper jaw and roof of the mouth. This is often done to prevent crowding of teeth and other bite problems, but has been shown in some cases to improve airflow.

There is another dental approach used to treat adults and older children, whose jaw growth is complete. It’s called oral appliance therapy, and it involves wearing a custom-made device during sleep that resembles a sports mouthguard or orthodontic retainer. An oral appliance can maintain an opened, unobstructed, upper airway during sleep in various ways, including: repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula; stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue; increasing the muscle tone of the tongue.

If your child has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, we can help you find the best treatment approach. For more information, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry” and “Snoring & Sleep Apnea.”

By Dr. Mark C. Pothitakis
March 31, 2012
Category: Oral Health
Tags: snoring   sleep apnea  
HowYourDentistCanHelpYouGetaBetterNightsSleep

Scientists don't know much about sleep even though it has been extensively studied. We do know that several hours of deep, restful sleep per night are essential for a healthy life.

Many people remain tired and unrefreshed, even after a full night's sleep. About a third of them are affected by sleep related breathing disorders (SRBD). Dentists can play a significant role in helping patients overcome these disorders, which range from frequent snoring to severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). If you think you may have such a disorder, read on.

Under normal conditions, your upper airway is open, allowing air to flow from your nose, through your throat, and into your lungs. If you suffer from SRBD, you experience frequent reductions in the flow of air to your lungs during sleep. You may not be aware of it, but sometimes your breathing may even stop for brief periods. These reductions happen when your tongue and other soft tissues in the back of your throat collapse backwards and block your upper airway or windpipe. You may briefly awaken as many as 50 times per night because of these breathing lapses. These brief awakenings, called micro-arousals, keep you from reaching the deep stages of sleep your body needs.

The resulting reduced oxygen flow to your heart and to your brain can cause serious damage. You will also be tired during the day and experience a lack of energy, even if you sleep for seven or eight hours per night. This constant drowsiness puts you at greater risk for accidents.

Because dentists generally see their patients at six-month or other regular intervals, we are in a good position to screen and refer patients with suspected SRBD to physicians for diagnosis and treatment. Dentists can also treat SRBD in a number of ways.

  • One of these is Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT), in which a device that looks something like an orthodontic retainer holds your lower jaw in a forward position relative to your upper jaw, preventing your tongue and soft tissue from collapsing into your airway.
  • Another consists of breathing equipment called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). The CPAP is a mask connected to a machine that pushes air into your lungs.
  • Other treatments include oral surgery or orthodontia. The goal of these techniques is to increase the volume of air passing through your upper airway by pushing your tongue forward.

Medical insurance usually covers the cost of much of these treatments.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about sleep disorders and their treatments. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sleep Disorders and Dentistry.”