Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious condition that effectively causes people to stop breathing periodically as they sleep. Left untreated, it can cause a range of symptoms, ranging from loud snoring to an increased risk of heart disease. The condition is estimated to affect between 2-9% of the United States population. However, sleep experts believe that many cases of sleep apnea go undiagnosed, meaning that the actual prevalence may be significantly higher. One of the issues associated with obtaining a proper diagnosis is that many patients do not recognize the symptoms or risk factors associated with OSA as they occur.
Our Buxton dentists are highly experienced in the field of dental sleep medicine, and they can help evaluate your risk for sleep apnea and other types of sleep-disordered breathing. Dentists are uniquely equipped to notice many of the early signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, and they can recommend a sleep study for formal diagnosis. Our own Dr. Nicholas Roy has even been named a Qualified Dentist by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, indicating his demonstrated competence in identifying and treating different sleep disorders.
One of the first tools in identifying whether you may be experiencing OSA is recognizing the signs. Common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud, persistent snoring, often punctuated by loud choking noises or pauses in breathing.
- Frequent daytime fatigue
- Headaches, especially in the morning
- Acid reflux
- High blood pressure
While snoring is one of the more common and noticeable symptoms, it is not necessarily a firm indication of sleep apnea. However, if you or a loved one have frequent snoring combined with any of the other symptoms, it may be best to request a sleep apnea screening with your dentist or undergo a formal sleep study. Left untreated, sleep apnea has the potential to increase the risk of developing other serious health issues, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and depression.
Another aspect of identifying OSA involves knowing the risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing the condition. These include:
- Age: Sleep apnea is most common in those over the age of 40.
- Gender: Sleep apnea occurs more often in men.
- Weight: Obesity seems to contribute to new or worsening sleep apnea symptoms.
- Genetics: Certain anatomical characteristics—such as a thicker neck—can increase your risk.
- Family History: There have been studies showing a hereditary component to sleep apnea risk.
- Certain Medical Conditions: Conditions such as diabetes, chronic nasal congestion, and asthma may influence your risk of developing sleep apnea.
To learn more about your risk for developing sleep apnea, we encourage you to fill out this brief questionnaire. Your answers to these questions will help Dr. Roy or another one of our skilled dentists evaluate your condition and either rule out sleep apnea or provide actionable recommendations regarding obtaining a formal diagnosis. Once you have received a diagnosis from a trained sleep expert, the team here at Saco River Dentistry may be able to help treat and manage your sleep apnea symptoms using oral appliance therapy.
If you have any further questions about sleep apnea, or if you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our dentists, please contact Saco River Dentistry today.