Sleep Apnea: what it is and how we can help

Have you been suffering from mysterious headaches? Are you tired in the middle of the day – for no reason at all? Are your loved ones complaining that you’re especially irritable or moody? Amazingly, the root of all these problems may just be your snoring. And unfortunately, snoring may be the sign of a whole range of other, more serious health problems.

Sleep is increasingly recognized as a biological function necessary for optimal daytime functioning. Snoring – besides being bothersome to your bedmate – is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. This condition, also known as OSA, actually causes you to stop breathing while you sleep; often hundreds, if not thousands of times per night. This halt in breathing occurs when your tongue, throat, and jaw muscles relax, which then cause your airway to be blocked. When breathing stops, the body reacts with a momentary spike in blood pressure. Because these jagged halts in breathing can occur hundreds or thousands of times nightly, the effects are multiplied – and truly dangerous.

Insufficient or poor sleep quality has been linked to heart attacks, diabetes, hypertension, strokes, depression, driving accidents, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), other chronic health problems and premature death. Studies now reveal that sleep apnea raises death risk by an alarming 46%. Approximately 87 million Americans snore and over 40 million of those suffer from chronic sleep disorders. However, only 10% of sleep disorders are diagnosed. Fortunately, dentists like Dr. Whitten are now being trained to recognize signs of risk for sleep disorders and how to treat such disorders.

 

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The American Academy of Sleep Medicine now recommends oral appliances as a primary or first line of treatment for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. The guidelines state that patients should always be offered the choice of an oral appliance if they have mild to moderate OSA.

For Mild to Moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea:
Oral appliances (OAs) are indicated for use in patients with mild to moderate OSA who prefer OAs to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), or who do not respond to CPAP, are not appropriate candidates for CPAP, or who fail treatment attempts with CPAP or treatment with behavioral measures such as weight loss or sleep position change.

For Moderate to Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea:
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) for the treatment of moderate to severe sleep apnea. If patients have tried and failed CPAP, they should be offered treatment with an oral appliance. Patients with severe OSA should have an initial trial of nasal CPAP [prior to trying oral appliances]. Reference: 1. American Academy of Sleep Medicine website http://www.aasmnet.org

Our treatments include the latest in FDA-approved oral appliance therapy (OAT), also known as mandibular advancement devices (MAD), to keep the airway unobstructed during sleep. We are highly trained in fitting and maintaining a wide variety of oral devices to reposition the mandible, retain the tongue below the airway and provide positive airway space to limit apnea episodes and their related loss of sleep.

Prior to fabricating an oral appliance our office makes it a priority to work with board certified sleep physicians and other appropriate health professionals to reach a proper diagnosis.  We have collaborated with other area sleep professionals to offer FREE sleep screenings and we also offer ARES, an at-home sleep study, when prescribed by a physician.

It may interest you to know that many health insurance plans do reimburse for OAT and its related services and therapies. Our office will be happy to work with patients to assist in any coverage benefits that may apply to their course of treatment. We will work closely with you and your physician to provide the best treatment option.