Merion Village Dental Blog

How Can a Dentist Help Treat Your Sleep Apnea?

February 17, 2017

Merion Village

Categories: General Dentistry

sleep apneaSleep apnea can wreak havoc on your quality of life – not only does it leave you exhausted even after a full night’s sleep, but if left untreated, sleep apnea can cause serious, long-term health problems.

Your doctor’s solution to the problem might involve loud, bulky machines, or possibly even surgery. But depending on your situation, your dentist might be able to offer a simpler, less-intrusive solution.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Most people are more familiar with the side effects of sleep apnea than the condition itself: exhaustion, snoring, headaches, irritability, and even depression. But rather than not getting enough sleep, the reason these symptoms occur is that the body stops breathing intermittently while asleep.

Sleep apnea comes in the following two forms:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea – also known as OSA, the most common form, which stems from poor or blocked airflow
  • Central Sleep Apnea –occurs when the brain fails to send proper signals to breathing muscles

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is usually caused when the soft tissues of the throat collapse due to muscle relaxation, blocking the airway. When this happens, you wake up briefly throughout the night (some people believe they are choking), and the body’s oxygen levels are reduced.

Airways can also be blocked by swollen tonsils and glands, swelling or misalignment of the jawbone, obesity, alcohol use before sleeping, or nasal issues such as deviated septum or allergies.

Why Sleep Apnea Should be Taken Seriously

Sleep apnea can result in more than just snoring and exhaustion. If left untreated, it can cause profound health issues, including:

  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic acid reflux
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Diabetes
  • Death

How Merion Village Dental Diagnoses and Treats Sleep Apnea

Merion Village Dental offers a gentle, non-invasive approach to diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. To first determine whether you suffer from the condition, we start with a free in-office pharyngometer test, which accurately maps the size and collapsibility of your airways. This simple test usually takes only about two to five minutes to complete.

If the test suggests you may have obstructive sleep apnea, you will next undergo a take-home sleep study, which records your body’s biological conditions while sleeping. Our dentists will go over the study’s results with you, and if they indicate you are suffering from OSA, the next step is crafting a dental appliance for you to wear.

Some dentists or doctors prescribe a CPAP machine to treat obstructive sleep apnea, which forces air through the oral and nasal passages to keep soft tissues from collapsing. CPAP machines can be noisy, bulky and uncomfortable, which can also affect your sleep. Instead, our dentists will design a custom mouth device that will help to comfortably open your airways.

This mouth piece is individually shaped to guide your jaw forward while sleeping, to position the soft tissues in your airways (tongue, soft palate, tonsils, and the back of the mouth) so that they don’t block airflow. With an unobstructed airway, you should experience a good night’s sleep starting with the first use.

Sleep apnea can have severe effects on your health and quality of life, but it is also easily treatable. To learn more about Merion Village Dental’s services or to schedule an appointment, call 614-443-4400 or visit us online.

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