Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Dental Sleep Medicine
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when your muscles relax during sleep. This allows the soft tissue to collapse and block the airway. Each pause in breathing is called apnea. As a result, sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing many times at night. The pause can last for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute. When this occurs, we wake up and seriously disrupt our sleep.
The overall effect of all these apneas is a decrease in oxygen levels. These decreased oxygen levels can affect every cell in the body, especially the heart and brain. Loud snoring, excessive daytime tiredness, memory problems, irritability, fatigue, and insomnia are all signs that you could be losing valuable shut-eye to sleep apnea. If left untreated, sleep apnea can be a potentially life-threatening condition.
It can increase the risk for other serious health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and impotence.
Should I seek testing to see if I have obstructive sleep apnea?
- Do you snore?
- Do you wake up gasping for air?
- Do you feel tired during the day?
- Do you wake up with frequent headaches?
- Do you have difficulty concentrating or feel “cloudy”?
- Do you have a tough time falling asleep or staying asleep?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may want to speak with Dr. Caesar about having a sleep consultation.
At the sleep consult, Dr. Caesar will review your medical and dental histories, ask you some more in-depth questions about your sleep and sleep history, and do a detailed examination of your airway.
To do this Dr. Caesar will utilize a pharyngometer and a rhinometer. These are painless state-of-the-art devices for measuring the size and volume of your airway and nasal passages. This will give the doctor a precise picture of your airway and how much it is collapsing when you sleep. Based on these results, Dr. Caesar may recommend a sleep study.
What is a Sleep Study?
Only an overnight sleep study that a medical doctor reads can diagnose a person with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). There are two types of overnight sleep studies: a polysomnogram(PSG) and a home sleep test (HST). For a PSG, the patient will sleep in a sleep lab, either in a doctor’s office or hospital setting. There are leads on the head and body that will take measurements while the patient is asleep.
Most patients prefer the HST because it can be done in the comfort of your own home, and in their own bed. There are still come leads that take measurements, but overall it is a much more comfortable experience. Dr. Caesar can administer the HST to you directly. Upon completion of the test, a board-certified sleep physician with whom Dr. Caesar works very closely will read the results.
Based on this diagnosis, Dr. Caesar can then sit down with you and discuss treatment options.
How do you Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
The traditionally prescribed treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. It involves sleeping with a face mask connected by tubing to a constantly running machine. It uses air force to keep the airway open overnight.
Although a CPAP machine is effective, more than half of the patients don’t adhere to the treatment. Dr. Caesar can provide an alternate sleep solution with oral appliance therapy.
What is Oral Appliance Therapy?
Oral appliance therapy is an effective, non-invasive treatment option for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea that fits easily into your lifestyle. A dental oral appliance looks like a sports mouthguard. Patients will wear it at night during sleep. It supports the jaw in a forward position to help maintain and open the upper airway, preventing sleep apnea and snoring. These appliances are also called mandibular advancement devices (MAD).
These dental appliances will lower the jaw slightly forward in hopes of enlarging the airway and preventing it from collapsing while sleeping. This is a simple solution that is discreet, silent, and comfortable. If given the option, most patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea choose this MAD over CPAP.
Dr. Caesar has helped many patients with a custom-fitted oral appliance. The pharyngometer is again used to obtain the correct bite or “sweet spot”. This is the position of your lower jaw that will open up the airway best. There is no more “guessing” on how to make your appliance. The doctor is now able to see using technology, the best position for your lower jaw.
Patients like it because it is comfortable, easy to wear, quiet, portable, convenient for travel, and easy to clean.
Treating snoring or sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy can help you get a good nights sleep. You will find that your symptoms, and your quality of life, can improve dramatically when you remain committed to your treatment and use it nightly. OAT can improve your sleep, restore your alertness, and revitalize your health.