Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious condition that can have wide-ranging effects on your health and your quality of life.

It’s important to be aware if you have symptoms of sleep apnea so that you can get treatment and reverse the condition’s health effects. Oral appliance therapy offers a comfortable and convenient option for effective sleep apnea treatment.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which patients repeatedly stop breathing for brief periods while they are asleep. This can occur because the airway opening is obstructed by soft tissues at the back of the throat (obstructive) or because signals from the brain to maintain respiration are interrupted (central).

The symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea may include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Pauses in breathing that are noticeable to a sleeping partner
  • Fatigue and daytime drowsiness
  • Morning headaches, sore throat, and dry mouth

sleep apnea treatment | Midtowne Smiles | Grand Rapids, MI

Patients should keep track of such symptoms to determine whether they should complete a sleep study and seek further treatment.

Why do I need sleep apnea treatment?

If you have an obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis that has been confirmed through a sleep study, you should consult with a sleep apnea specialist like Dr. Burton to be evaluated for possible treatment.

Sleep apnea is associated with a host of significant health conditions, including high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and obesity, among others. Patients who have sleep apnea even appear to face a higher risk of dying suddenly and unexpectedly. Therefore, getting sleep apnea treatment can have dramatic positive effects on your health.

Additionally, sleep apnea treatment will address other issues, such as mood and energy levels, which can influence your quality of life, along with your health.

What is oral appliance therapy and how does it work?

Oral appliance therapy uses a small device that is similar to a mouthguard or a bite splint to hold the patient’s jaw in a forward position. This, in turn, keeps the soft tissues at the rear of the throat away from the airway opening and reduces the chances of obstruction. Oral appliance therapy is highly effective in mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea and can help patients avoid an uncomfortable CPAP mask.

Common Sleep Apnea Questions

If I snore, do I have sleep apnea?

Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, although it does not necessarily mean that a person absolutely has the condition. Sleep apnea is associated with a number of additional symptoms, including daytime drowsiness, frequent headaches, sore throats or dry mouth upon waking, low energy levels, irritability, and difficulty focusing.

Patients who are experiencing any of the symptoms of sleep apnea should consult with a sleep doctor to complete a sleep study and confirm the diagnosis. After you have completed a sleep study, you can schedule an evaluation with Dr. Burton to explore your treatment options.

What causes sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when soft tissues near the airway opening slide over the airway and block it. This happens when the patient is in a reclined position during sleep.

The airway blockages cause the patient to stop breathing over and over while they are asleep. This can happen as few as five times an hour in mild cases to upwards of 100 times each hour in the most severe instances. Every time the patient stops breathing, the brain rouses the patient to reinstate normal breathing. This disrupts the patient’s sleep, and the patient is often unaware of it.

Certain risk factors are associated with sleep apnea, including obesity, large neck circumference, undersized jaw structure, and male gender, although post-menopausal women also are more likely to develop sleep apnea. Smoking and alcohol use can also contribute to sleep apnea.

How do you confirm the effectiveness of the oral appliance?

Anecdotal evidence of symptom reduction, such as less snoring and improved energy levels, will provide the initial indication that the oral appliance therapy is working. Dr. Burton may recommend a follow-up sleep study to quantify the effects of the oral appliance therapy.

How long will it take to adapt to the oral appliance? Will it hurt my teeth?

The oral appliance is customized to fit your mouth based on impressions and measurements taken by Dr. Burton, so it should be quite comfortable from the initial fitting. It may take some time to get accustomed to sleeping with the appliance in your mouth, but it will take much less time to get used to an oral appliance than it does to adjust to an unwieldy CPAP mask.

Because the oral appliance is customized to fit your unique oral structure, it should be comfortable. If you find that your teeth hurt or that you’re experiencing any other discomfort associated with the appliance, contact Dr. Burton to see if further adjustments can be made to improve the appliance’s fit.