Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is characterized by interrupted breathing while sleeping. People suffering from sleep apnea may snore loudly or wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air. Sleep apnea affects about 18 million Americans. Sleep apnea can occur in anyone, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.

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What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common condition in which a person will stop breathing intermittently during sleep, and as many as 25 percent of adults are affected. When breathing is disrupted, the brain sends a signal to wake the body up momentarily to breathe in oxygen again. This cycle can occur hundreds of times each night. 

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Certain risk factors can make someone more likely to have sleep apnea. Family history is one risk factor. If your parents or siblings have had sleep apnea, you may have it too. There are some health conditions that are also risk factors for sleep apnea. These include obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. Having a small mouth or large tongue can also increase your risk for sleep apnea. Your airway may be too small if your mouth is too small or your jaw is misaligned, and you have a receding chin. Some people are born with an abnormally small jaw that is too narrow for their tongue, which can cause their throat to close during sleep. The risk of having sleep apnea also goes up as you age. Men are more likely to develop it than women. 

Other possible complications of untreated sleep apnea include:

  • Diabetes complications, such as kidney disease, eye damage, and heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Daytime sleepiness and fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating and memory problems
  • Irritability, aggression, and mood swings

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Because sleep apnea causes interrupted breathing throughout the night, it can lead to many health issues. Some of the most common side effects include waking up feeling tired despite getting plenty of sleep, morning headaches, daytime drowsiness, mood swings, depression, and even an increased risk of a heart attack, stroke, or even death. Because sleep apnea can impact your overall health, it’s important to seek treatment for this sleep disorder as soon as possible. 

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

There are different types of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea depending on the patient’s needs and lifestyle. For some patients, lifestyle changes are enough to treat their condition. These can include losing weight, quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol and sedating medications before bed, and sleeping on their side instead of on their backs. 

Other treatment options for sleep apnea include:

  • CPAP

Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is a non-invasive treatment option that uses a face mask and machine to deliver continuous positive air pressure to the patient while they sleep. This promotes better breathing by preventing soft tissues from collapsing into the airways. It also helps maintain an open nasal passage while sleeping.

  • Oral appliance / Mandibular advancement device

An oral appliance may be recommended for mild to moderate cases of obstructive sleep apnea. This custom-fitted device works by keeping your airway open while you sleep. A mandibular advancement device is used to treat sleep apnea by repositioning the lower jaw forward in order to open the airway and increase airflow. The device is worn at night and removed in the morning. Adjustments can be made as needed to continue opening the airway.

  • Surgery

If a patient’s obstructive sleep apnea is severe, surgery may be an option to help correct the problem. There are several different types of surgeries that may be performed to treat obstructive sleep apnea. These procedures are generally all minimally invasive and can be performed while the patient is asleep under general anesthesia. They usually involve removing parts of the soft palate or the tongue to create more space in the airway so that the patient is able to breathe better. Some patients may also need a tracheostomy to help them breathe more easily while they are sleeping.

Dr Giruc works closely with sleep doctors to offer patients one of the many solutions for treatment. After you are properly diagnosed by a sleep doctor and have been informed of all your treatment options, if you chose to treat your condition with an Oral Appliance, we will be happy to see you and help you improve your overall health and quality of life.

Dr Giruc has extensive training and is a member of Sleep and breathe academy to provide her patients with quality care.

Please call us at (503) 581-2446 to consult with our dentist, and we will be happy to assist you further.