Loud snoring or waking up in the middle of the night with shortness of breath may be more than simply an inconvenience to you and your loved ones. Severe snoring or absence of breath during sleep is often an indication of obstructive sleep apnea. When left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health risks. In addition, since many of the symptoms are only observable while the person is asleep, many people with sleep apnea are unaware that they have the condition.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from sleep apnea, please schedule a consultation with one of our experienced dentists today. For qualified candidates, we offer effective sleep apnea treatment with the Silent Nite® sl oral appliance. To learn more about sleep apnea and the benefits of treatment, we invite you to explore the informational sections provided below:
- What is Sleep Apnea?
- Risks of Sleep Apnea
- Sleep Apnea Symptoms
- Degrees of Sleep Apnea
- Pediatric Sleep Apnea
- Sleep Apnea Treatment—Silent Nite® sl
- Sleep Apnea Treatment Cost
- Sleep Apnea FAQs
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea affects millions of men and women, and this health condition is typically the result of the soft tissues of the throat becoming overly relaxed during sleep. Loud snoring, choking, or gasping for air during sleep are frequently the first indicators of sleep apnea. The pauses of breath that occur during sleep can last ten seconds or longer, causing the brain to become deprived of oxygen. The risks associated with sleep apnea can be very serious, and receiving a proper diagnosis can be essential for remaining in good health.
What Are the Risks of Sleep Apnea?
Since sleep apnea can be difficult to properly diagnose, many patients with sleep apnea are unaware they are at risk for serious health conditions such as:
- Acid reflux
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Sexual dysfunction
- Heart disease
- Sudden cardiac death
Identifying the symptoms of sleep apnea and receiving a proper diagnosis from a physician are the first steps toward achieving a better night’s sleep and living a full, healthy life.
What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
While loud snoring and shortness of breath during sleep are the primary symptoms of sleep apnea, there are many other observable signs that may initially seem unrelated. These symptoms may include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Headaches in the morning
- High stress or anxiety
- Mood Swings
- Short-term memory loss
- Grinding or clenching the teeth during sleep
Oftentimes, a loved one alerts the person with sleep apnea of these symptoms. A sleep study can then be conducted to receive a proper diagnosis. In many cases, these sleep studies may now be performed in the home, allowing the physician to review the results afterward and avoiding the need for an overnight stay in a lab. With effective treatment for sleep apnea, these symptoms can be greatly reduced or resolve altogether.
What Are the Different Degrees of Sleep Apnea?
Individuals with sleep apnea can experience the condition at different levels of severity. To diagnose your sleep apnea and specify the acuteness of your symptoms, an evaluation performed by an experienced doctor is necessary. The degrees of sleep apnea are outlined in the apnea hypopnea index (AHI), and they are determined on an individual basis by counting the number of breathing pauses you experience per hour while sleeping. During your medical sleep study, an experienced doctor will measure your oxygen destaurization levels and note the number of breathing interruptions that occur. Based on breathing disruption frequency, your sleep apnea can be categorized as either mild, moderate, or severe:
Mild Sleep Apnea
More than five breathing pauses per hour, but less than 15 per hour.
Moderate Sleep Apnea
More than 15 breathing pauses per hour, but less than 30 per hour.
Severe Sleep Apnea
30 or more breathing pauses per hour.
Based on the findings of your sleep study, your physician will be able to recommend the best avenue for effectively treating the degree of sleep apnea you are experiencing. If you wish to seek affordable, non-invasive treatment for your sleep apnea, bring the records of your sleep study and diagnosis to your initial appointment at our practice. Using this information, and observations made during a comprehensive examination, our highly trained dentists can determine if you are a good candidate for the Silent Nite® sl oral appliance.
Can Children Have Sleep Apnea?
Pediatric sleep apnea can create serious emotional, physical, mental, and behavioral health consequences for children that can potentially have long-lasting effects. Proper diagnosis of sleep apnea in children is critical to finding the right treatment, and if your child is showing the following signs we recommend you schedule an appointment with a doctor who is knowledgeable in pediatric sleep apnea:
- Restless sleep
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Breathing pauses during sleep
- Mouth breathing
- Daytime fatigue and lethargy
- Clenching and grinding teeth during sleep
As with adults, custom oral appliances can sometimes be effective for treating sleep apnea in children. If your child has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, we welcome you to visit our dental office to learn more about treatment options that can help improve their sleep and overall health.
Sleep Apnea Treatment with the Silent Nite® sl Oral Appliance
Our dentists use the Silent Nite® sl oral appliance to treat sleep apnea. This prescription device consists of two flexible plastic trays that fit comfortably over the teeth and are worn by the patient at night during sleep. The Silent Nite® sl can keep the jaw properly aligned and improve airflow through the mouth, throat, and nasal passages. During your first appointment, one of our dentists will take an impression of your teeth and send them to a lab to manufacture your custom oral appliance. The Silent Nite® sl is then sent to our office, and the patient can return for a fitting to ensure maximum comfort. This oral appliance is easy to wear and can significantly reduce or eliminate the symptoms and risks associated with sleep apnea.
How Much Does Sleep Apnea Treatment Cost?
According to Blue Cross Blue Shield, the average cost for an oral appliance to treat sleep apnea is $826 and some dentists in the United States may charge as much as $1200. Furthermore, the cost of an oral appliance is often not covered by insurance providers. Fortunately, the experienced, highly credentialed dentists at our dental practice in Los Algodones, are able to provide The Silent Nite® sl oral appliance for $550. To learn more about the price of sleep apnea treatment or schedule an appointment, please contact our office today.
Additional Frequently Asked Questions About Sleep Apnea
Who is at a high risk for sleep apnea?
Although anyone can develop sleep apnea, there are a number of factors that can increase the risk. These factors include:
- Weight: carrying excess weight can increase the risk of developing fat deposits around the upper neck that can restrict breathing
- Genetics: hereditary factors, such as airway width and neck circumference, and a family history of sleep apnea can contribute to the risk for developing the condition
- Gender: men are statistically more likely to develop sleep apnea than women
- Age: sleep apnea is more commonly seen in older adults
- Smoking: individuals who smoke often have increased tissue inflammation and fluid retention, which can block the airway
- Certain Medical Conditions: a variety of other medical concerns can contribute to an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, including heart and lung problems, hormonal disorders, and high blood pressure.
What makes sleep apnea worse?
Sleep apnea is a serious condition, but it can typically be managed with proper diagnoses and treatment. However, certain factors and lifestyle choices can actually worsen the effects of sleep apnea, including:
- Consuming alcohol and other medications that relax the airway
- Gaining a significant amount of weight
- Sleeping on your back
- Sleep deprivation
When consulting with your doctor, it is important to follow all of their instructions. Furthermore, maintaining a generally healthy lifestyle, managing your weight, and avoiding smoking and drinking can all help minimize the impacts of sleep apnea and make treatment more effective.
What does sleep apnea sound like?
While sleep apnea can present in different ways in different people, one of the most common signs is loud, disruptive snoring, snorting, and gasping during sleep. These noises are the result of an obstructed airway, and they are often punctuated by intermittent pauses where the airway becomes completely blocked and the patient stops breathing entirely. If you or a loved one experience frequent snoring in combination with any of the other symptoms of sleep apnea, you may want to consider speaking with your physician.
How does sleep apnea affect the heart?
Sleep apnea essentially causes patients to stop breathing frequently during sleep. In addition to causing sleep deprivation and fatigue, this pattern of interrupted breathing can also place increased stress on your heart. Frequent pauses in breathing can cause decreased blood oxygen levels, raising your blood pressure levels and putting increased strain on your cardiovascular system. Frequent waking due to a lack of oxygen can also strain the heart by triggering involuntary stress reactions. When the heart is overworked by frequent sleep apnea episodes, the walls of the heart can begin to thicken and the overall structure becomes less effective at pumping blood. This can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular events.
Why choose a dentist to treat sleep apnea?
As a result of their training and experience, dentists are highly adept at assessing oral anatomy and identifying bite and/or jaw alignment irregularities, which can cause or contribute to sleep apnea. They can also help identify some of the early warning signs of sleep apnea, such as bruxism (teeth grinding), that other medical professionals may not notice as quickly. Dental sleep medicine is a rapidly growing field that combines the knowledge and expertise of dentists, physicians, and sleep specialists in order to provide patients with more comprehensive diagnosis and treatment options.
In addition to helping identify sleep apnea, dentists can often play an integral role in treating it. While continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machines are often considered the “gold standard” of sleep apnea treatment, they may not be right for every patient. Dentists are often able to offer more conservative treatments for patients with mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, such as our Silent Nite® sl oral appliance therapy. This non-invasive treatment can provide a more comfortable and appealing alternative for many people.