July 13, 2023
Sometimes snoring is more than a nuisance; it can be the result of a sleep apnea! This is a dangerous condition that can obstruct a patient’s airway during sleep, causing them to stop and start breathing many times while sleeping. People with this condition can feel exhausted throughout the day without knowing why. Treatments are available, and taking care of the condition can reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Here are some facts about what sleep apnea is and what can be done about it.
What is Sleep Apnea?
With sleep apnea, the upper airway is obstructed during regular sleep, interrupting normal breathing patterns. These lapses in breathing can occur potentially hundreds of times throughout the night.
Who Has Sleep Apnea?
Research estimates that a significant percentage, up to 20%, of adults in the US suffer from sleep apnea with even more cases remaining undiagnosed. Rates of sleep apnea are higher in men but still prevalent in women.
Similarly, obesity is a major risk factor for the condition because excessive fat deposits around the neck and throat can put pressure on the upper airway as the supporting muscles relax during sleep. Large tonsils and adenoids can also be a factor by partially obstructing the airway during sleep. Some children have sleep apnea for this reason.
What Can I Do to Treat Sleep Apnea?
If you have sleep apnea, a dentist trained to treat the condition can help. A common solution is a continuous positive airway pressure device, also called a CPAP machine. This appliance pumps air through a hose to a mask that fits over the nose with enough pressure to keep the airway open. In other cases, all that is needed is a mouthguard-like appliance worn inside the mouth. This device pushes the lower jaw forward while keeping the tongue and other tissues from obstructing the airway as they relax. These treatments can even reduce or eliminate snoring and help alleviate other symptoms associated with sleep apnea.
While sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening medical condition, you don’t have to let it get in the way of a good night’s sleep. There are many people successfully managing it with proper medical care. By knowing what it is, what causes it, and its risk factors, you will be better able to seek help when you need it and reclaim your good night’s sleep.
About the Author
Dr. Philip A. Lisk graduated in 1997 from the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry in Chapel Hill, earning his Doctor of Dental Surgery. For well over twenty years, he has practiced general dentistry in North Raleigh, NC. His practice provides preventive, restorative, cosmetic, and emergency dentistry in addition to sleep apnea treatments. If you are concerned that you might have sleep apnea or want to know more about what you can do about it, contact him online or give him a call at (919) 870-6892.
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