Dental Sleep Medicine

If you or your significant other struggles with snoring and/or sleep apnea, learn if dental sleep medicine can help improve your sleep hygiene. Contact Saco River Dentistry to schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable dentists, and they will help you find the most beneficial treatment for your needs.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition that can cause a loss of oxygen in the body over several periods of time throughout sleep. Lack of oxygen over time leads to sleep deprivation through stress on the cardiovascular system. This fatigue is often accompanied by snoring, fragmented sleep, and many awakenings. As the muscles and tissue of the airway continuously collapse, oxygen intake is reduced and can lead to a number of serious long-term complications, if left untreated. When a person’s breathing is regularly disrupted for periods of 10 seconds or longer every night, this can negatively affect their sleep quality and present as a variety of daytime symptoms. At Saco River Dentistry, our dentists are highly experienced in recognizing the risk factors of sleep disorders and providing first-line treatment. Through the use of custom oral appliance therapy, you can maintain a stable airway that prevents collapsibility and allows you to get a full night’s sleep, leaving you feeling refreshed in the morning.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

Many sleep apnea sufferers go undiagnosed because they do not realize they have a sleep-related breathing disorder. This is due to the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea not always being obvious. In fact, many cases of sleep apnea are not discovered by the individual but by a loved one, since they can better observe pauses in breathing, gasps for air, or loud snoring during the night. Although every case will differ, common signs that you may have a sleep disorder include the following:

  • Frequently waking up throughout the night
  • Waking up by choking or gasping for air
  • Loud snoring
  • Daytime fatigue and exhaustion
  • Headaches during the morning
  • Insomnia
  • Acid reflux
  • High blood pressure

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

The most common type of sleep apnea is known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This is typically caused by the muscles and other soft tissues in the back of the throat relaxing to the point of restricting, if not completely blocking the airway. Risk factors for developing obstructive sleep apnea include obesity, a family history of the condition, inhaling tobacco smoke, and structural issues in the mouth or airway. While these can influence the likelihood of a person developing sleep apnea, some cases can occur without any of these factors. Many of these factors are genetic: small dental arches, large tonsils, constricted nasal passages and many other visible factors.

How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

The only way to diagnose sleep apnea is through a comprehensive sleep study. These tests are designed to evaluate your body while you sleep by monitoring your breathing, blood oxygen, brain activity, and more. If you suspect you may be suffering from sleep apnea, our team can refer you to a sleep study to determine if you have the condition.

What Does Sleep Apnea Treatment Involve?

The most common method of treating obstructive sleep apnea is with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. CPAP therapy works to keep the airway open by delivering air through a headgear and ventilatory tubing. While this system is effective, CPAP therapy can often be uncomfortable and inconvenient, leading some to not wear their mask every night. As a result, these individuals do not receive the benefits this treatment has to offer.

As an alternative to CPAP therapy, our team is happy to help patients improve their sleep health and wellness with oral appliance therapy. Oral appliance therapy is regarded as a first line treatment option for patients, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Patients often regard this type of treatment as a pleasant, discrete, and convenient way to achieve a restful night of sleep. The treatment involves a custom-made oral device that is designed to fit comfortably in your mouth while you sleep. These appliances can often be used as an alternative to CPAP therapy for patients suffering from severe sleep apnea.