San Clemente Discusses Sleep Apnea
An Unexpected Place to Find a Treatment for Sleep Apnea: Your Dentist
>>> View all Dr. Johnson Dental Info video clips
Topics Addressed in this video: Sleep Apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, San Clemente Dentist, Central sleep apnea, Mixed sleep apnea, Sleep Apnea Treatment
Chances are that, if you're reading this, you're just becoming familiar with sleep apnea. Apnea, from the Greek meaning not breathing, is the medical term for just that a cessation of normal breathing function. Sleep apnea, then, is an umbrella term for any of a few different medical conditions that can cause you to stop breathing in your sleep.
Depending on what kind of sleep apnea you have, you may be surprised to learn that your dentist, more so than your General Practitioner, has an inexpensive and effective answer.
The three major kinds of sleep apnea are:
- Central sleep apnea, in which something goes wrong with your nervous system and your body fails to trigger the ‘inhale' reflex. This is much rarer than the next type.
- Obstructive sleep apnea by far the most common kind in which something, usually the soft tissues of your pharynx, larynx, and tongue, collapse in on themselves to block off breathing even though the lungs are still trying.
- Complex or Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the above two conditions, occurring sequentially or simultaneously. It is the rarest of the three for obvious reasons.
How Do I Know If I Have Sleep Apnea?
Sufferers of sleep apnea most often find out from their spouses but if you sleep alone, you might be able to tell from the following symptoms. If you:
- Frequently fall asleep during the day or feel like you want to fall asleep during the day
- Have recently suffered a noticeable decline in mental awareness, work productivity, and/or desire to pursue fun activities
- Wake up often during the night when you didn't before
- Wake up with a very dry mouth and/or throat
- Have experienced a spike in general blood pressure
You may have recently developed sleep apnea. If you want to be certain, buy a cheap recording device and record yourself sleeping. Play it on fast-forward during breakfast and listen for any long pauses in your normal breathing rhythms.
Dentists and Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Clearly, unless you have a very special dentist, you wouldn't go to see them for a problem with your central nervous system. Dentists are, however, quite talented at dealing with problems in the mouth and throat, and that absolutely includes obstructive sleep apnea.
Dentists have several options for treating obstructive sleep apnea. The most common is called a 'dental appliance', and is one of several devices that you put in your mouth before sleeping. Most dental appliances for sleep apnea help force the tongue and mandible forward, which in turn keeps the other soft tissues from collapsing. Others are designed to fit snugly into the back of your throat and force the pharyngeal tissues to remain separated. As a side benefit, in addition to preventing obstructive sleep apnea, both of these devices quite perfunctorily prevent snoring as well.
The other major option only open to those dentists that do reconstructive or plastic surgery is just that: surgery. There are a number of options for sleep apnea surgery, ranging from simply eliminating a good amount of the soft tissue in your throat so that there's nothing to collapse to inserting a smaller, less intrusive appliance into your throat that has the effects of the larger appliances but without the discomfort of trying to fall asleep with a big plastic thing in your mouth.
Talk to Dr. Johnson
You should, of course, talk to your family doctor if you think you're suffering from sleep apnea but like with most things, you shouldn't necessarily take his options as the only ones. Consult your San Clementer dentist Dr. Eric Johnson as well, and see what he can do for you. You may find that it's well worth your while.