Snoring isn’t sexy – it can ruin a relationship. It’s embarrassing for the soccer mom whose daughter plays travel soccer and shares a hotel room with another mom, or the dad who falls asleep and snores loudly at the school play. Worse, snoring can be a symptom of a potentially life threatening medical condition known as Sleep Apnea. Our bodies need sleep to rest and recover from our daily activities. Without proper sleep, we lack concentration during the day and suffer the loss of cognitive memory function that occurs only during normal sleep cycles. Poor sleep places a strain on our bodies, exacerbates disease, and slows the healing process. Once misunderstood and under diagnosed, sleep apnea has been associated with high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, acid reflux, and fibromyalgia to name just a few of the medical maladies associated with poor sleep.
What is Snoring?
Snoring is the sounds made when tissues of the tongue, soft palate, and throat become partially blocked and vibrate during breathing. Studies estimate 40% of the adult population snore by the age of 40. Being overweight, some medications, alcohol consumption, and simply the size and shape of the tissues in our mouths and throat are just a few of the common causes of snoring. All contribute to the constriction of airflow during breathing, resulting in the noises we call snoring. Snoring isn’t necessary dangerous, but can be a precursor or warning sign of a serious medical condition known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
What is Sleep Apnea?
Unlike snoring where a partially blocked airway causes vibration, tissues of the tongue, soft palate, and throat can actually block the passage of air. Sleep Apnea is a breathing disorder described as the disruption of airflow caused by the blockage of one’s airway. The word Greek word “apnea” means “want of breath”. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a medical condition where the blocked airway passages actually prevent breathing. A person diagnosed with even mild to moderate Sleep Apnea stops breathing 5-30 times per hour!
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
A person with Sleep Apnea may stop breathing upwards of 100 times per hour. As your brain senses the decrease in oxygen levels caused by breathing cessation, your body awakens you for a brief instant to breathe. The period of awakening is so short, one does not remember, and the cycle of obstruction, lack of breathing and awakening continues over and over throughout the night. Bed partners of apnea individuals describe a cycle of loud snoring, silence associated with the complete cessation of breathing, and then a violent gasping for breath.
Sleep Apnea effects range from bothersome to life threatening. As we are constantly awakened to breathe, our body’s never enjoy “a good night’s sleep” that we require to function normally in our daily lives. We sleep so our bodies quite literally recover and heal from daily activities. Without proper sleep, we lose the ability to concentrate and retain memory in school and the workplace. Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include irritability, morning headaches, lack of concentration, learning and memory disorders, and sexual dysfunction. Falling asleep during a business meeting or behind the wheel of a car is not normal!
Sleep Apnea is believed to exacerbate many other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Remember, sleep apnea is the cessation of breathing followed by the violent awakening and gasping for breath. Severe bruxism (grinding of the teeth) and gastric reflux are associated with sleep apnea. Why would someone die in their sleep of a heart attack or suffer a stroke when it should be the most quiet and stress free time for our bodies? The Department of Transportation screens all commercial truck drivers for sleep problems as studies indicate up to 4% of all traffic fatalities are related to sleep apnea. Both the Exxon Valdez oil spill and Space Shuttle Challenger disaster were in part attributed to poor decision making associated with poor sleep.
How can we help?
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine provide physicians with evidence-based recommendations for the evaluation and management of patients with sleep disorders based upon the latest medical research. This physician based organization’s Practice Parameters includes the use of oral appliances as a treatment modality for mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or for patients who are CPAP mask (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) intolerant and diagnosed with severe Sleep Apnea.
We at Bunin Dental want you to be involved in the decision process making about the treatment choices for sleep apnea. Working in conjunction with local physicians trained in Sleep Medicine, a diagnosis as to the severity of the condition as well as treatment options can be discussed with you. There are currently a number of FDA approved dental devices that help reposition the jaw at night and are proven to successfully treat obstructive sleep apnea.
Because Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a medical condition diagnosed by a physician trained in sleep disorders, many medical insurances provide coverage for devices fabricated by your dentist. As a dentist we see this as a wonderful benefit as it preserves your dental insurance for dental care.
Please call us so we can begin to discuss your concerns as well as provide options for care. Don’t let a health condition estimated to afflict one in five adults over the age of forty go untreated.
Kevin Bunin, DDS
Bunin Dental, the Sterling Dentist
14 Pidgeon Hill Drive, Ste 200
Sterling, VA 20165
Ph (703) 444.4104