You might not think that sleep apnea is a dental condition, but in many cases, it does fall within the scope of treatment of dental professionals. This is particularly true when sleep apnea is related to things like tooth grinding. Our qualified Bay City Dentist, Dr. Matthew Ward, can determine whether you may have sleep apnea and if it could have long-term consequences for your oral health.
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What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is the name for a group of conditions that all cause patients to wake periodically throughout the night. They may not know that this is happening, and aside from waking with a dry mouth, reports of snoring from loved ones, and feeling fatigued even after a full night’s sleep, it is difficult to diagnose sleep apnea.
There are many causes of the condition. In some cases, patients may have obstructive sleep apnea, where the soft tissues of the palate and throat “collapse” during sleep and cause the patient to startle awake. Others may have central sleep apnea, which is a nervous system condition that affects breathing regulation during sleep.
Many patients have a combination of both of these, and it’s also very common for patients with sleep apnea to also suffer from a condition known as bruxism, which is teeth grinding. In patients with signs of bruxism, we welcome you to visit our Bay City Dentist Dr. Ward, who may actually be the first one to suggest that sleep apnea might be a factor.
How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
Most patients who are diagnosed with sleep apnea first report secondary problems like daytime fatigue to their doctors. Their doctor may ask a series of questions about their sleep habits, and if they suspect that sleep apnea might be the cause of the problem, a sleep study may be ordered.
During a sleep study, a patient is connected to special machines that measure signs of sleep and wakefulness, as well as oxygen levels in the blood.
How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?
The treatment of sleep apnea can be as complex as the condition itself, and it may involve more than one person. Your Bay City dentist Dr. Ward, and a family doctor may both have to work on different aspects of the condition for you to find a solution that works for you. Some patients who suffer from sleep apnea find that a CPAP or forced air device helps them to have uninterrupted sleep with normal breathing.
Other patients find mouth guards or oral appliances that prevent teeth grinding and help to position their jaws correctly, is enough to treat their sleep apnea problems.
Sometimes, treatments are combined with lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking, and in some extreme cases, our Bay City, MI dentist Dr. Ward may recommend surgery to make permanent adjustments to the soft palate or jaw.
Is Sleep Apnea Only A Problem For Adults?
No. Sleep apnea is more common in adults, but it can affect people of all ages. Children who are overweight or who snore heavily tend to be more prone to sleep apnea, just like adults, however in some cases, enlarged tonsils and adenoids may be at the root of the problem.
Whether old or young, patients who have sleep apnea will find that the condition affects their quality of life over time, and it’s always a good idea to seek treatment as soon as possible.