My grandmother slept with earplugs for nearly 40 years. My grandfather snored so loud that she could not sleep without them. Snoring can be troubling for those around you but also can be an indication of a bigger and more dangerous problem. At Matthew Nawrocki DMD, MS, we use our blog as a platform for dental and oral health education. Today we feel compelled to discuss obstructive sleep apnea. If you have specific questions, we welcome a call or a click. Simply click here or call us at (904)602-8396.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder where breath stops intermittently during sleep. The main cause of OSA is the relaxation of throat muscles during sleep. This relaxation of the muscles and soft tissue blocks the airway. Mild OSA is defined as an AHI (an index that measures the number of breathing absences or inefficiencies per hour) of 5-15 and moderate OSA with an AHI of 15-30. This means that someone suffering from moderate obstructive sleep apnea can have as many as 30 episodes per hour!
Who is in Danger?
While anyone can get OSA, it most commonly affects middle aged or older adults. People that are overweight and men with large necks are at a higher risk for OSA as well.
Why is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Dangerous?
While there are many different dangers of OSA, the most serious are a higher risk of cardiac conditions and stroke. To simplify things, consider someone suffering from moderate OSA. This person has up to 30 episodes per hour where they either have a total absence of breath or have weak and ineffective breathing. This does not allow for adequate oxygen intake. As a result, the heart has to compensate to push an increased amount of blood to the organs. his can result in heart hypertrophy or even directly to a heart attack. In addition, people that suffer from sleep apnea have been shown to be much more accident prone. Vehicle accidents are much more common with OSA patients.
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
Those suffering from OSA can experience some of the following symptoms and signs:
- Morning and daytime drowsiness
- Waking with a dry mouth
- Waking with a dry or sore throat
- Morning headaches
- Sudden wakening from sleep with a shortness of breath
How is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treated?
The traditional treatment of choice for OSA is the CPAP. This is a mask-like device that is worn on the face during sleep. This mask is attached to a tank that pushes air into the airway. The result of proper use is a significant decrease in apnea and hypopnea episodes. The CPAP, however, suffers from one major flaw. The CPAP is reported by most patients to be uncomfortable and therefore is not used. The result of this is a total elimination of it’s benefit.
In recent years, the dentist has become a key player in the treatment of OSA. The dental device to treat OSA is reported by most to be much more comfortable than the CPAP and extremely effective. The mechanism is simple. The device is a mouthpiece that gently pushes the lower jaw forward. This stretches the muscles and prevents them from blocking the airway.