December 8, 2019
There’s nothing worse than waking up feeling as exhausted as when you went to bed, especially when you made it a point to go to sleep earlier than usual. What you hoped would be 8 blissful hours of uninterrupted rest turned into a chaotic night of continually gasping for air in an effort to breathe. If this situation sounds familiar, there is a good chance you might be suffering from sleep apnea. While the warning signs are present, they may not always be easy to spot, which is why it’s important to know what to look for. If you suspect you are one of the millions of adults battling this common disorder, read on to find out what you should know about treatment and how your dentist can help.
What is Sleep Apnea?
There are various types of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This occurs when you stop breathing for 10 seconds or more a night. The reason is due to your tongue and soft palate collapsing on your airway, creating a blockage. When this happens, your brain lacks the oxygen it needs to function, so a signal is sent, alerting you to wake up. The result is suddenly waking and gasping for air, which causes your blood pressure to rise.
This can happen once or hundreds of times each night. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to devastating effects on your body and brain, such as heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, neurological disorders, and more.
What Are the Warning Signs?
Individuals who have sleep apnea may not know for years. That is unless they have a partner who can alert them to ceased breathing or snoring throughout the night. No matter if you have someone with you or not, there are additional warning signs to look for if you think you may have this common sleep disorder.
Some of the signs to watch for include:
- Chronic snoring
- Morning headaches
- Daytime drowsiness
- Loss of libido
- Irritability or mood swings
- Forgetfulness or memory loss
- Gasping or choking for air while you sleep
- Dry mouth
- Sore throat
How Can a Dentist Help?
The first step to seeking help is to have a sleep study performed. Once you receive an official diagnosis, your sleep apnea dentist in Chesapeake can provide effective treatment that will help you get the rest you need.
Depending on the reasons as to why you have developed sleep apnea, it may be that you will benefit most from CPAP therapy, which is a continuous positive airway pressure machine that uses a steady stream of air to help keep your airway open while you sleep. Unfortunately, many patients find the bulkiness of the machinery is difficult to maneuver, and the mask that is to be worn proves uncomfortable.
An alternative method of treatment, which many dentists are now offering, is oral appliance therapy. Not only does it treat sleep apnea, but it also works to curb snoring. Creating a customized oral device based on your individual mouth, it looks much like a mouthguard and is designed to reposition your tongue and jaw to allow air to pass through to your lungs, preventing blockage from occurring.
If you are worried that you may have sleep apnea but want to seek immediate treatment, talk to your dentist about the next steps. Their expertise and training will ensure you receive the care you need to help you achieve a better, more restful quality of life.
About the Author
Dr. Craig Estrada earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia before going on to receive his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Medical College of Virginia School of Dentistry. Pursuing advanced credentials, training, and experience in aesthetic dentistry, dental implants, orthodontics, periodontics, and restorative dentistry, he is also qualified to treat sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. If you think you may be struggling with an inability to get a full night’s rest and continually fatigued, contact us at (757) 548-1611.
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