Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that causes people to stop breathing at different times throughout their sleep cycles. There are two main types: Obstructive sleep apnea; and Central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of sleep apnea. During the interruptions to breathing, called apneas, the airway’s soft tissue collapses. This collapse prevents oxygen from passing through the airway and reaching the lungs. During central sleep apnea, the brain stops sending messages to the body to breathe during sleep. No physical disruption to the airway takes place, although the body responds as if an interruption occurs.
Both types of sleep apnea are disruptive to sleep patterns and can reduce normal blood oxygen levels. People with untreated sleep apnea typically wake up feeling tired and lethargic. Left untreated, sleep apnea can have a significant impact on short – and long – term mental and physical health. This condition can increase a person’s risk for excessive daytime sleepiness, driving and work-related accidents, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, memory and learning problems, depression. Dentists can be a valuable partner for obstructive sleep apnea treatment. After receiving a diagnosis from a sleep study by a respirologist, a dental appointment can help people with sleep apnea learn more about their treatment options. Dentists may recommend wearing oral appliances. These devices can ease symptoms in patients of normal weight with mild to moderate sleep apnea.
Oral appliance therapy (OAT) for snoring and OSA attempt to assist breathing by keeping the tongue and jaw in a forward position during sleeping hours. Dentists assess their patients’ teeth, mouths, and temporomandibular joints to determine whether they are good candidates for OAT. The typical appointment schedule consists of 5 to 6 appointments from consult, delivery, and follow up appointments. A post adjustment sleep study is necessary to assure effective treatment, this must be obtained from a respirologist.