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Obstructive sleep apnea can be a silent killer. It is a disease that is often not diagnosed properly for a long time and can have some serious side effects that can effect the quality of our lives. Sleep apnea is caused by the muscles in your throat relaxing too much and closing, preventing air from entering your lungs, hence the use of “obstructive” in the name of the disorder.

There is a rarer form of sleep apnea called central sleep apnea. This is only found in approximately 5% of all sleep apnea cases. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send the proper signals to open and close your airways while you are sleeping.

Complications Of Sleep Apnea

-Cardiac Issues / High Blood Pressure. Sleep apnea patients will experience a sudden drop in blood oxygen levels when sleeping. This sudden drop can place a strain on the entire cardiovascular system. The incidence of high blood pressure is much higher in those with sleep apnea over those who do not. The more severe the sleep apnea the higher the risk of high blood pressure. Sleep apnea also increases the risk of stroke, increased risk for atrial fibrillation, and congestive heart failure. Central sleep apnea is not known to cause heart issues but to develop following heart issues.

-Focus Issues / Fatigue. People with sleep apnea often experience daytime fatigue, irritability, and depression. This occurs because patients suffering from sleep apnea will have abnormal sleep rhythms due to the repeated awakening from lack of oxygen to the brain. Children with sleep apnea will often do poorly at school or have behavior issues.

-Eye Issues. Research has shown that sleep apnea can cause optic nerve swelling and glaucoma. Luckily, once the sleep apnea is properly diagnosed and treated thses issues usually go away.

-Possible Surgical Complications. Research has shown that people with sleep apnea may be more likely to experience complications following major surgery. This is  because they are prone to breathing problems, especially when sedated and lying on their backs. Undiagnosed sleep apnea is especially risky in this situation. It is important to let your doctor know in advance of surgery if you have sleep apnea.

-Sexual Dysfunction. Studies have shown that men suffering from sleep apnea have a higher incidence of erectile dysfunction. As mentioned previously, lack of oxygen puts a strain on the entire vascular system and this includes blood flow to the sex organs.

-Liver Issues. Research has also shown that people suffering from sleep apnea are more likely to have abnormal results on liver function tests, and their livers are more likely to show signs of scarring.

Other complications can include diabetes, obesity, headaches, and high risk pregnancies.

Tips To Overcoming Sleep Apnea

-Lose Weight. Being overweight is a known risk factor of obstructive sleep apnea. Not every sleep apnea patient is overweight but many are. A small amount of weight loss can improve a person’s sleep apnea to the point of curing a person’s sleep apnea.

-Develop Regular Sleep Patterns. We all need sleep to function and stay healthy. Regular sleep is especially important for those with sleep apnea. A good option for many is the use of a CPAP machine or a Tap II dental appliance. These allow for the airway to stay open alleviating the breakup of sleep during the night.

Researchers have found that about 50% of the people with sleep apnea have most of their breathing issues while sleeping on their backs. People with sleep apnea should consider sleeping in other positions.

-Regular Exercise. Getting just 30 minutes of moderate activity 3-4 days of the week may help ease obstructive sleep apnea symptoms.

-Care For Allergies. Many people suffering from seasonal allergies just “deal” with them. This will only exacerbate the sleep apnea issue as a stuffy nose will make sleeping even more difficult. If you have sleep apnea and nasal allergies, be sure your allergies are under control. Use of a nasal spray (saline) before bed may also help.

-Avoid Alcohol And Sleeping Pills. Both of these are relaxants. This will lead to a relaxation of the muscles of the throat and tongue leading to increased sleep apnea symptoms.

-Quit Smoking. Smoking will worsen obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Conclusion

If you are suspicious you have sleep apnea it is imperative you get yourself checked by a physician or even your dentist. It is an often overlooked disorder that can carry some life changing complications.

Modern dentistry has evolved from the days of just a simple nightguard for grinders. A well trained dentist can treat a number of issues that were not even considered even 15 years ago. Bite appliances can be utilized in treatment of, the combination of clenching and bruxing, obstructive sleep apnea, TMJ pain, and sports mouthguards. These appliances allow patients to live more comfortable, healthier lives while enjoying the activites they love.

Teeth Clenching and Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

These are fairly common issues for many Americans. Studies have been unable to pinpoint the exact number of people in the population that grind or clench but it is believed, that most people at some point in their life will experience this habit. This is sometimes considered to be a stress related habit. Most patients with these habits, do so while sleeping, so they are unaware of the forces exerted on their teeth while they sleep. Teeth clenching and grinding can cause a number of dental issues that include:

-Loose Teeth.

-Temperature Sensitivity.

-Tooth Chipping and Fracturing.

-Flattened teeth.

Bite Appliances are used to protect the teeth and also to re-train us to prevent continued grinding and clenching. These bite appliances are made from polymers and acrylics. They are generally custom made for each patient for added comfort and protection. These bite appliances work by not allowing the teeth to touch, making it restrictive to clench or grind. For those with an extreme form of these habits, it is not unusual to grind through the appliance over time necessitating a new appliance to be made.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

This is sometimes known as the “silent killer”. Obstructive sleep apnea can be potentially a very serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep time. Obstructive sleep apnea is believed to affect about 25% of the population. Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by:

-Excessive daytime sleepiness.

-Both habits of clenching and grinding at night.

-Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep.

-Awakening abruptly accompanied by shortness of breath.

-Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking in the morning.

There are generally two types of bite appliances available for obstructive sleep apnea. These include over the counter ones and custom fabricated ones. The idea behind either of these bite appliances is to maintain an open airway during sleep to stop the disturbances from occurring.  These bite appliances work by repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, and soft palate. The custom fitted appliances tend to work far better than the generic ones.

TMJ Disorder appliances

These bite appliances help to reposition and decompress the jaw. TMJ disorder appliances are generally worn at night, and help to decrease the inflammation and pain associated with TMJ instability.

Athletic Mouthguards

These have really come into fashion in the last decade, as more and more research has gone into sports medicine, better airway maintenance and prevention of concussions. The old days of the generic “boil and bite” mouthguard are slowly fading away. We are now in the age of custom fitted athletic mouthguards that are able to not only give better protection against injury but also increase athletic performance. The thinking is, that how an athlete clenches his/her teeth together changes the way the brain reacts. When using a proper athletic mouthguard, your brain will be better able to handle temperature regulation as well as stress.

Bite Appliances Conclusion

Bite appliance therapy has been around for quite some time but recent advances (in both technology and theory) have made the treatments even more effective than before. A small investment in a good bite appliance can make the world of difference in the health and well being of your teeth for the rest of your life.