By Angela M. Harney D.M.D., P.A.
November 13, 2011
Category: Oral Health

Do you constantly feel like you are running on empty? Do you snore, feel like napping every day, or even drink multiple cups of coffee just for the caffeine boost? You may have a sleep related breathing disorder (SRBD) or Sleep Apnea (“a” – without; “pnea” – breath) in which your airways become obstructed causing chronic loud snoring. The good news is that we can help both diagnose and treat this disorder, which means you will be able to finally get the rest that you (and your sleeping partner) so desperately need.

The reason that sleep apnea is so disruptive to daily living is that it causes awakening for a few seconds up to 50 times per night, significantly decreasing the amount of deep sleep that is necessary for full rejuvenation. Airway blockage during sleep commonly results from obesity, an enlarged tongue or tonsils, and other factors that can cause your airway to close off when you lie down, all increasing the likelihood that you will suffer from sleep apnea. These conditions are dangerous and impair the brain and heart from receiving adequate oxygen, increasing your risk for both stroke and heart attack.

The study of sleep and its disorders is relatively new. One successful way to treat sleep apnea is with a “CPAP” machine which uses a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure mask overnight to keep air passages open while sleeping. Another more comfortable, less noisy, and unobtrusive method is to use Oral Appliance Therapy, which features an appliance like a retainer that can be custom fitted to your mouth made by a dentist trained in sleep medicine.

And yes, dentists are increasingly being recruited to help study and treat sleep disorders. There are actually several ways in which we can help. Because we see our patients on a regular basis, we are uniquely qualified to diagnose early signs of SRBDs. For example, if you start to snore almost immediately after falling asleep in the dental chair, we will be able to discuss this important warning sign with you. We can also examine the back of your mouth to see if you possess any of the traits that point to SRBDs, including large tonsils and/or an elongated uvula — the tissue in the back of your throat that looks like a little punching bag.

So, if you want to stop snoring and start sleeping well or you think you may have a SRBD, call our office to schedule a basic oral exam and consultation. If you would like to learn more about the link between dentistry and the treatment of sleep disorders, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry.”

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