What Causes Snoring?
Snoring occurs when the soft tissue structures of the upper airway collapse and vibrate as we attempt to move air through the airway. This produces the sound we know as snoring. Large tonsils, a long soft palate, a large tongue, the uvula, and excess fat deposits in the throat all contribute to airway narrowing and snoring. Usually, the more narrow the airway space, the louder or more habitual the snoring.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when the tongue and soft palate collapse into the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway, causing airflow to become disrupted. When the oxygen level drops low enough, the brain moves out of deep sleep, and the brain awakens out of a deep stage of sleep. These instances are referred to as apneic episodes, and you may not even be aware that they are happening. The airway then contracts and opens, causing the obstruction in the throat to clear. The flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp. When the airflow resumes, patients then move back into a deep sleep. The airway muscles collapse, as patients awaken with a gasp. The airway clears once again as the process repeats itself. This scenario may occur many times during the night. For severe cases of untreated sleep apnea, these episodes may occur up to hundreds or more times a night! That means that your brain is awakening out of deep sleep over and over again. This explains why sufferers often feel extremely fatigued, even though they went to bed at a decent hour.
The combination of low oxygen levels and fragmented sleep are the major contributors to most of the ill effects that the sleep apnea patient suffers. In addition to excessive daytime sleepiness, studies show that sleep apnea patients are much more likely to suffer from heart problems (heart attack, congestive heart failure, hypertension), strokes, as well as having a higher incidence of work-related and driving-related accidents.
How do you know if you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
Start by taking our simple test, but be sure to visit your physician if you think you have a sleep-breathing disorder, or you snore while sleeping. Drs. Campbell and Schmidt offer sleep apnea screenings and airway evaluations to determine your risk of a sleep-breathing disorder. While a board-certified sleep medicine doctor is the only physician that can technically diagnose a case of sleep apnea, our Lake Forest dentists can screen for this disorder, and help you manage it. Drs. Campbell and Schmidt also can collaborate with your sleep specialist to determine the best course of action in treating your OSA. However, some specific signs and symptoms may indicate you have sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- Chronic fatigue
- Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking up
- Headaches or migraines
- Difficulty remembering
- Low libido
- Weight gain
- Difficulty losing weight
Also, patients who clench and grind their teeth (bruxism), or that have TMJ disorder are at risk of having sleep apnea. If you are one of these patients, it is essential to ask Drs. Campbell and Schmidt about a sleep apnea evaluation today. This is not an all-inclusive list of sleep apnea symptoms. There are many ways that sleep apnea affects one’s life. If you would like to learn more or have questions about sleep apnea, contact Lake Forest Smiles.
Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Since OSA is a serious medical condition, it must be diagnosed by a physician. Diagnosis is based on the results of an overnight sleep study, called a Polysomnogram (PSG). Other factors in determining OSA diagnosis are patient evaluation and a thorough medical history review.
Treatment Options for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Good sleep hygiene, weight loss, and exercise are some helpful OSA treatments a patient can practice on their own. However, medical and dental treatments include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), oral appliance therapy, combined CPAP and oral appliance therapy, and/or surgery. At Lake Forest Smiles, our doctors collaborate with your sleep specialist to determine the best course of treatment for your sleep apnea. Many of our patients find that oral appliance therapy is convenient because it does not need to be plugged in for use, it is quiet and does not interfere with your partner’s sleep, and it can easily be concealed or taken with you when traveling.
A CPAP machine may be recommended for those with severe cases of sleep apnea. But, if you currently use a CPAP machine, and are wondering if there is another treatment option available, contact Lake Forest Smiles for a consultation.
What is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)?
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is pressurized air generated from a bedside machine. The air is delivered through a tube, connected to a mask, covering the nose. The force of the pressurized air splints the airway open. The CPAP opens the airway like air into a balloon. When air is blown into the balloon, it opens and gets wider. This is exactly how CPAP clears the airway. While the CPAP is effective and known to be the “gold standard” treatment for sleep apnea, it has a low compliance rate. Many CPAP users find the mask irritating to their skin, and the machine difficult to keep clean and noisy. Plus, it is cumbersome to take with you when traveling. For these reasons, many sleep apnea patients prefer oral appliance therapy to manage their sleep-breathing disorder.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliances are worn in the mouth to treat snoring and OSA. These devices are similar to orthodontic retainers or sports mouthguards. Oral appliance therapy involves the selection, design, fitting, and use of a custom-designed oral appliance that is worn during sleep. This appliance then attempts to maintain an open, unobstructed airway by holding the lower jaw in a precise position that facilitates an open airway and proper oral resting position. There are many different oral appliances available. Approximately 40 appliances have been approved through the FDA for the treatment of snoring and sleep apnea. Oral appliance therapy may also be covered by insurance. Oral appliances may be used alone or in combination with other means of treating OSA. These may include general health, weight management, surgery, or CPAP therapy.
Oral appliances work in several ways:
- Repositioning the lower jaw, tongue
- Stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue
- Increasing the muscle tone of the tongue
Drs. Campbell and Schmidt have extensive training in oral appliance therapy, and they are familiar with the various designs of appliances. They can determine which one is best suited for your specific needs. Our dentists have received extensive training from the Las Vegas Institute and the Dawson Academy, which provides education and training in the area of neuromuscular dentistry. They work with your physician as part of the medical team in your diagnosis, treatment, and on-going care. Determination of proper therapy can only be made by the joint consultation of your dentist and physician. The initiation of oral appliance therapy can take several weeks or months to complete. Your Lake Forest sleep apnea dentists will continue to monitor your treatment and evaluate the response of your teeth and jaws, during this time. Find out why you should choose a neuromuscular dentist to help manage your sleep apnea.
Oral appliances are generally covered by dental insurance. However, depending on your policy, you may still be left with an out-of-pocket expense. To find out if your dental insurance will cover your sleep apnea appliance, contact our office or call your insurance provider directly to verify benefits. Lake Forest Smiles believes that ignoring sleep apnea drastically increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain types of cancer, as well as cognitive decline. Therefore, it is essential not to leave your sleep apnea untreated. If finances are a concern for you, ask our Lake Forest dental office about special financing. We partner with CareCredit and LendingClub, which allow patients to make small monthly payments, usually interest-free so that they can receive the dental care that they need.
Sleep Apnea Dentists in Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, and Lincolnshire
Sleep apnea plagues millions of people in the U.S., including children. The worst decision you can make is to ignore the snore! Keep in mind that snoring is not the only symptom of sleep apnea. If you think that you may have sleep apnea, contact Lake Forest Smiles by calling (847) 234-4800. Drs. Campbell and Schmidt have been providing elite dental care to the communities of Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, and Lincolnshire for more than 30 years. We welcome you to our practice.