Many people are under the mistaken assumption that if they have a sleep breathing disorder they simply do not get enough sleep.
There are numerous studies that indicate how important quality sleep is to long-term health and happiness. Quality sleep has been shown to improve memory, increase lifespan, curb inflammation, spur creativity, increase performance (including school grades), sharpen attention, improve metabolism, lower stress, decrease automobile related accidents, and decrease depression.
A sleep breathing disorder is often accompanied by a decrease in the oxygenation of the body during sleep. Depriving the body of optimal oxygen levels night after night will logically lead to serious disease. Sleep breathing disorders have been directly linked to diabetes, heart disease and strokes.
Someone with a sleep breathing disorder also will often not spend adequate time in the REM cycle of sleep. This is the cycle of sleep where maximum bodily recuperation occurs and where vital hormones are released. If an individual does not spend adequate time in this deep cycle of sleep they are not receiving the benefits of those recuperative hormones nor the maximum muscle relaxation that also occurs during this cycle of sleep.
The medical professional in a position to most readily diagnose and treat a sleep breathing disorder is the general dentist. For the well-trained dentist, recognizing a patient with a risk for a sleep breathing disorder is relatively straight forward.
A well-informed patient can also self-identify as being at risk for a sleep breathing disorder. Some common symptoms of sleep breathing disorders are: snoring, waking up suddenly with shortness of breath, excessive sleepiness during the day, difficulty staying asleep, holding breath while asleep, kicking or jerking legs while sleeping, waking up with a headache, or high blood pressure. If you have several of these symptoms, you should be tested for a sleep breathing disorder.
Sleep breathing disorders are classified in four categories: Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS), mild sleep apnea, moderate sleep apnea or severe sleep apnea.
A patient diagnosed with severe sleep apnea should be immediately placed on a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. A patient diagnosed with any other category of sleep breathing disorder has the choice of being treated more conservatively with a dental appliance.
No matter which category of sleep breathing disorder a patient is diagnosed with, the dentist is the only health care provider that has the ability to permanently remedy the condition causing the sleep breathing disorder.
Sleep breathing disorders are caused by a constricted airway. An airway can be constricted in a number of different places by a number of different causes. The only way to know for certain where an airway is constricted is by a thorough exam, including a CBCT image (a 3-D image of the airway). 3-D imaging is one of the truly exciting advanced technologies in modern dentistry. With 3-D imaging, we can see exactly where an airway is constricted and therefore how to best eliminate the constriction permanently.
Airways can be constricted by: tonsils/adenoids, narrow dental arches, retruded lower jaw, nasal polyps, enlarged tongue, deviated nasal septum, etc. Many of these constrictions can only be addressed by a dentist who understands sleep breathing disorders and orthodontics/orthopedics.
Airway health is a major consideration in our practice. We evaluate each and every patient for potential sleep breathing disorders because overall health is always more important than any tooth problem. We will also NEVER move a tooth before we consider what the effect will be on airway health.
Because we are so passionate about airway health, we offer a complementary screening for anyone who believes they might have a sleep breathing disorder. Simply call our office (714-838-0760) and ask for your complementary sleep apnea screening exam.