Sleep apnea affects millions of people across the globe. Sleep apnea occurs when, due to relaxation, muscles in the throat relax and block the airway. This causes the person to literally stop breathing. The interruption in breathing can last as little as a few seconds an up to a minute or more. Sleep apnea can have devastating effects on a person’s health and can affect daily quality of living.
Some of these effects are:
- high blood pressure
- acid reflux
- heart disease
- daytime sleepiness
- erectile dysfunction
- memory loss
Sleep apnea is diagnosed by having a sleep study performed. You will usually be required to spend a night in a sleep lab, where your breathing and sleep quality are measured. Sometimes this testing can be performed at your home.
The usual recommended treatment is to place a patient or CPAP (or BiPAP) therapy. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. A CPAP machine is set a pressure appropriate for the patient and a steady stream of air is administered to the patient via a specialized mask. The continuous air is designed to keep the airway of the sleeping person open, so as to eliminate an apnea episode.
Many people often find the CPAP machine difficult to get used to and often forgo using it, to the detriment of their health and well-being. Masks can chafe the skin and the air can dry a person’s mouth and throat out significantly. There is some noise that is emitted from the machine, which can keep a light sleeper up all night, completely defeating its purpose.
There are surgeries that can be performed to treat sleep apnea. UPPP (said as U3P), uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, surgery trims soft tissues in the mouth and throat to eliminate excess material to make the airway larger and remove any obstructions.
There is another option available. Oral appliances are a mechanical way to address sleep apnea. The devices are worn like a mouth guard and are designed to push to the jaw forward to maintain an open airway. There are many patients that find these oral appliances much user friendly and less cumbersome than a CPAP machine and mask. They are certainly less invasive than a surgical procedure.
There are a number of dentists in the San Diego area who can fit you with a custom made oral appliance for your sleep apnea. This type of therapy is usually covered by insurance and there are over 100 FDA approved oral appliances from which to choose. Finding one that suits you and provides effective therapy should not be a problem.
Sleep apnea is a chronic, serious condition and is often overlooked by people who think that it is simply disrupting their sleep. The ramifications of leaving sleep apnea go untreated could be life threatening.