Waking up still tired is a normal daily occurrence for many people. While there's no cause in many cases, it may be caused by conditions like sleep apnea in others. Here, our dentists in Surrey explain what sleep apnea is and how it affects your body, and talk about whether your dentist is able to diagnose your condition.
What is sleep apnea and how does it affect the body?
Patients experiencing the effects of sleep apnea have little pauses in their breathing throughout the night. Sleep apnea gets its name because these little pauses are called apneas and they occur while you are sleeping. These breathing pauses can last a few seconds to a few minutes and can happen up to 30 times (or more) per night. After each pause, normal breathing resumes, typically there would be some type of sound, choking or something similar as you begin to breathe normally again.
When suffering from the effects of sleep apnea you may also experience an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart attack. These are all potentially serious and life-threatening conditions which makes the diagnosis and management of sleep apnea very important.
What are the different types of sleep apnea?
The effects of sleep apnea are commonly missed during routine checkups due to the lack of obvious signs. Usually, the patients are the first to notice that something may be 'off' and relay that information to their primary physician or dentist. At this point, the appropriate next steps will be recommended.
Mild Sleep Apnea
With mild sleep apnea, the effects of the condition may be managed using dental appliances and lifestyle changes such as weight management.
If your primary physician has diagnosed you with sleep apnea, your dentist may recommend these types of options for the management of your symptoms.
Severe Sleep Apnea
Dentists and physicians often recommend that patients diagnosed with severe sleep apnea use CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). Continuous positive airway pressure, which uses air pressure to keep the airway open while you sleep, is the most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. If you are unable or unwilling to use CPAP therapy, Inspire therapy may be another possible solution.
Inspire monitors your breathing while you sleep and sends mild stimulation to the nerve that controls the movement of your tongue and other muscles in your airway to keep it open.
Can my dentist diagnose sleep apnea?
Unfortunately, a dentist is not able to diagnose sleep apnea in any patient, no matter how clear your symptoms are, they can recommend that you speak with your primary physician. Your physician will perform the appropriate diagnostics and provide a professional diagnosis.
Once you have been diagnosed, some dental clinics offer oral appliances, like nightguards, that can help manage the symptoms of sleep apnea and protect your teeth in the process.