Sleep Apnea - What It Is & Treatment Options

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Sleep is vital to your health and overall wellbeing. That's why dentists offer solutions for sleep disorders, like sleep apnea. Here, our North York dentists explain what sleep apnea is and how a dentist can help with treatment options. 

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is characterized by abnormal breathing pauses (apneas) or shallow breathing during sleep. These apneas can happen because of a physical blockage to airflow, a lack of respiratory effort, or both. 

What causes sleep apnea?

When you fall asleep, the tissues of your tongue, soft palate, and throat relax. The tongue, soft palate, and throat tissues actually over-relax in people who have sleep apnea, causing them to collapse into the back of the throat and block your airway. When the flow of oxygen ceases, the brain forces you to awaken in order to resume conscious breathing. These mini-episodes can occur hundreds of times throughout the night.

How do I know if I have sleep apnea?

There are a number of symptoms of sleep apnea including trouble focusing, heavy snoring, headaches and migraines, fatigue, restless sleep, depression, irritability, and TMJ symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms you should undergo an assessment by a medical professional to receive a proper diagnosis. 

If your dentist determines that you have symptoms of sleep apnea, you may be asked to have a sleep evaluation with a sleep specialist or may order an overnight sleep study to objectively evaluate for sleep apnea.

How can sleep apnea be treated?

Many people do not get enough sleep. Prolonged lack of sleep can lead to some major health problems like diabetes, heart disease, depression, and obesity. A major cause of poor sleep is sleep apnea, which is when breathing stops and starts during sleep.

Once you've been diagnosed by a medical professional, your dentists may be able to help you achieve a better night’s sleep with a variety of treatment options.

Oral appliances can help by moving your lower jaw forward, pulling your tongue away from your throat and soft palate, and thus opening your airway. Weight loss, exercise, and side sleeping are all lifestyle solutions that can help you achieve better breathing and more restful sleep. Your dentist might be able to assist you in determining the best treatment option for you.

Why is it important to treat sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea prevents you from falling into the restorative deep sleep you need to recharge your brain and body. This can contribute to many medical disorders, and reduce the quality and longevity of your life.

By treating sleep apnea, your dentist can help you improve and protect your overall health and wellbeing. 

To learn more about sleep apnea and the treatment options available, and for a possible referral to a specialist, contact the dentists at North Park Dental Care.

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