Sleep Apnea is a Dangerous Disorder: Can Orthodontics Help?
Has anyone ever told you that you snore? Do you suffer from chronic fatigue despite getting a full night of sleep? Do you feel excessive daytime sleepiness?
A good night’s sleep is one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Not getting enough sleep, or not reaching the Rapid Eye Movement which stands for REM sleep, can have negative effects on your body, and can also affect your thinking, concentration, or mood. Being able to breathe properly while asleep helps ensure a night of full rest, but many people have some sort of trouble breathing while asleep, such as snoring. While snoring can be attributed to several different factors, such as obesity, allergies, congestion, or family medical history, it could also be a sign of a sleep disorder known as sleep apnea.
Your orthodontist could play an important role in helping you address your condition. Some people first learn about sleep breathing disorders when they see an orthodontist. Orthodontists and jaw surgeons often work closely with sleep doctors to run tests and diagnose sleep breathing disorders.
The Dangers of Sleep Apnea
Snoring can be comedic, but Sleep Apnea is no laughing matter with detrimental side effects. What makes sleep apnea so serious?
Sleep Apnea is connected with some life-threatening problems. For example, fatigue caused by sleep apnea leads to an increased risk of car crashes and work-related accidents. In the long term, Sleep apnea can lead to:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart disease (cardiovascular diseases)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Complications while having general anaesthesia for surgery
It’s vital to recognise the signs of sleep apnea and get treatment. At the very minimum, breathing easily at night is a key to enjoying a healthy state of mind and all that flows from it.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that has three different types. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is caused by the relaxing of muscles and soft tissue in the throat while sleeping that blocks the airway, or by abnormalities in the bone structure of the airways. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is caused by brain or nervous system issues related to the control of breathing. Mixed sleep apnea, aka complex sleep apnea, is a combination of the two and is generally more serious.
Symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud or frequent snoring
- Pauses in breathing while asleep
- Choking or gasping for breath while asleep
- Insomnia (trouble falling asleep or frequently waking up)
- Tiredness or lack of energy during the day
- Irritability or mood swings
Can Your Dentist or Orthodontist Help You?
Some orthodontists and dentists are trained to recognise the ways OSA can affect their patients. Although an orthodontist will not diagnose you with sleep apnea, they will examine your mouth and let you know if they notice any potential signs of OSA.
Treatment of OSA is more than just getting braces or jaw surgery. If necessary, an orthodontist will refer you to a sleep doctor who is qualified to give you a definitive diagnosis. This is usually done in a controlled sleep study setting measuring apneic events at a sleep centre. Orthodontists, oral surgeons for surgical treatment, and sleep physicians often collaborate on sleep abnormalities.
Even if an orthodontist does not diagnose OSA, what about orthodontic treatment? Can braces or clear aligners help if you have obstructive sleep apnea?
Patients on oral appliance therapy for OSA often experience changes in dental arches hence moving from medicine to the dentistry side for potential dentofacial remedies. Treatment options to address dental changes formed as a function of oral appliances are diverse. Dental sleep medicine has expanded in recent years.
Remember that your dentist or orthodontist can screen you for sleep apnea, so if you’re having symptoms such as daytime fatigue, headaches, snoring, or a dry mouth, don’t hesitate to follow up with your oral healthcare professional.
Note: All content and media on the Sunbury Dental House website and social media channels are created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.
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