Sleep apnea is an often undiagnosed condition which can result in many health problems including: high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, irregular heartbeats, heart attacks, diabetes, depression, worsening of ADHD. It can also lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep deprived driving accidents, memory loss, and could be a cause of erectile dysfunction. Loud snoring or gasping and choking sounds at night could be strong sign of sleep apnea. There are estimates that as many as 80% of sleep apnea patients are undiagnosed. There are two main types of sleep apnea which are obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common and is mostly due to a collapse of the soft tissues in the airway which physically impedes the flow of oxygen. Central sleep apnea is due to problems with the brain’s respiratory control areas which leads to a lack of breathing attempts. Some people are affected with both types which is known as mixed sleep apnea.
Traditional treatment of all types of sleep apnea is with a device known as a CPAP. It fits over the person’s face and forces air into the airway which allows a steady stream of oxygen to reach the lungs. Surgery is also traditionally recommended to remove soft tissue that impedes the airway or to move the jaw and/or tongue to increase the opening of the airway. Surgery can be done for those that can not tolerate the CPAP or need additional treatment. Luckily, there are alternative treatments that may help minimize or avoid the use of CPAP and surgery.
One form of alternative sleep apnea treatment is wearing a dental device at night to help position the jaw and/or the tongue in opening the airway while sleeping. The most common type is the MAD (mandibular advancement device) which holds the lower jaw slightly forward. This treatment can help those with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Oftentimes, CPAP users find it difficult to sleep with the CPAP device due to its discomfort and frequently the user’s partner may find it difficult to sleep due to the constant sound of the CPAP machine. For these people who can not tolerate or wish to seek alternatives to CPAP, should look toward dental alternatives. An adjunct to further assist obstructive sleep apnea is the use of natural anti-inflammatory medicines and essential fatty acids to decrease the inflammation around the soft tissues that can collapse around the airway. Comfortable mattresses, specialized pillows, sleeping on one’s side, and other sleep hygiene techniques can also help nighttime breathing. Often times, losing weight can have a huge impact in reducing the severity of obstructive sleep apnea.
For central sleep apnea an imbalance between carbon dioxide and oxygen levels can disrupt the brain’s feedback mechanism which regulates breathing. By attempting to correct acidity and alkalinity balances in the body, the proper balance between carbon dioxide and oxygen can be improved. The treatment for these body imbalances can sometimes be treated with proper diet, nutrition, and supplementation. Central sleep apnea is also typically treated with a CPAP but if the cause for this apnea is due to a carbon dioxide and oxygen imbalance, then forcing oxygen into a person’s lungs may not be the ideal long term treatment.
Special tests with take home equipment along with a detailed health history can help diagnose sleep apnea with the help of sleep physicians and if necessary, a full sleep study can be done at a sleep center. The home tests are nice because they are performed by the client in their own home in familiar surroundings and these tests can usually give a lot of beneficial information to the sleep physician and treating dentist. However, sometimes a full sleep study may be required.
Anthony Kim, DDS
7154 Magnolia Avenue
Riverside, California 92504
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Monday, Tuesday, Thursday
7:30 A.M. until 5 P.M.
Wed - 7:30 A.M. until 5 P.M.
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