Sleep Apnea or Snoring
More than 80 million people snore— this number is roughly one-third of the North American population. In addition to disturbing the sleep of loved ones, snoring can lead to serious health problems. The struggle for breath, which produces a snore, can raise blood pressure and may damage the walls of the carotid arteries and increase the risk of stroke. Complete obstruction of the airway by the oral soft tissues and tongue can cause obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), an asphyxiative condition. Our Houston dentist, Jeffrey Schultz, DDS, offers treatment for snoring and sleep apnea. Please contact us today to learn more about our treatment options.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a condition that occurs when the tongue and tissues at the back of the throat relax and block the airway (either partially or completely) during sleep. The body fights to try to breathe, often leading to a loud gasp for air and/or a forceful jerk. This pause in breathing can cause serious health risks, so receiving a diagnosis is crucial. In addition to gasping for breath, some signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud snoring
- Drowsiness or fatigue throughout the day
- Accidentally falling asleep during the day
- Waking up with a dry mouth and/or sore throat
If you or a loved one are exhibiting these symptoms, sleep apnea may be the reason. Once a sleep test has been completed, a medical doctor can diagnose whether or not sleep apnea is the issue.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
There are several forms of sleep apnea with varying causes, but the overarching reason why sleep apnea develops is because of a lack of airflow to the brain. This labored breathing is caused by the excessive relaxation or collapse of oral tissues, which can block passageways in the throat and nose from which oxygen can travel.
In cases of obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles and soft tissues of the throat and mouth relax during sleep, reducing the size of an individual’s airway. The decrease in airway space increases the velocity of air flowing through with each breath, causing the soft tissues inside the mouth and throat to vibrate in a snore. The resulting symptoms—such as gasping for air and frequent pauses in breath—often prevent a healthy night’s sleep and lead to fatigue, trouble concentrating, and exhaustion during the day as well as the health risks discussed below. As snoring and other signs of the condition are observed during sleep, many sleep apnea patients have no idea they are affected. If you are unsure whether you have sleep apnea, Dr. Schultz can help you determine whether the condition is causing or exacerbating your symptoms.
Is OSA the Only Type of Sleep Apnea?
While appearing most commonly as OSA, sleep apnea can also be diagnosed as central sleep apnea (CSA) and complex, or “mixed,” sleep apnea. Unlike OSA, central sleep apnea is caused by the brain failing to send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing rather than an obstructed airway. This can result in disrupted breathing patterns during sleep. In rare cases, sleep can be interrupted by both OSA and CSA simultaneously— this is called complex sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Risks and Side Effects
If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health risks. Some of these risks include:
- Heart disease
- Sudden cardiac arrest
- Impaired concentration
- Driving and work-related accidents
Other side effects of sleep apnea include headaches, forgetfulness, depression, irritability, and a decreased sex drive. Treatment can help alleviate these critical issues and allow patients to achieve a more restful sleep.
Snoring and Sleep Apnea Treatment
Dr. Schultz can treat sleep apnea with a custom-made snoring prevention device called the Silent Nite®, which—when worn during sleep—repositions the lower jaw forward and opens the airway to reduce the air velocity and soft tissue shuddering that causes snoring. Such devices usually eliminate snoring for most people. Models of the upper and lower teeth are custom-fabricated. Furthermore, the upper and lower forms are attached on each side by special connectors that hold the lower jaw in a forward position.
The Silent Nite® device does not interfere with oral breathing, nor does it immobilize the jaw. Small movements of the jaw are possible and minimize temporomandibular joint (TMJ) stiffness in the morning. With the elimination of snoring, sleep is deeper and more restful for both the snorer and his or her family members.
Why Choose Dr. Schultz for Sleep Apnea Treatment?
Having completed advanced training and educational courses to properly treat sleep apnea, Dr. Schultz is well-versed in determining the most effective approach to address the underlying cause of a patient’s sleep apnea and subsequently improve their symptoms. Dr. Schultz uses personalized techniques to ensure your treatment is optimized for your unique concerns. He has achieved great results in successfully minimizing the symptoms of sleep apnea and has helped many patients achieve a healthier night’s sleep.
Please contact our practice about the Silent Nite® device if you or someone in your family has a snoring problem.