Whether you are a new parent or the average person struggling to juggle home and work responsibilities, restful sleep may sound like an elusive, unattainable fantasy. For some of us, sleepless nights are an occasional self-inflicted problem – we can’t stop thinking or worrying about looming problems or concerns.
But for about 90 million Americans, snoring is the culprit. About 54 million of these avid snorers may have a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The good news is specially trained dentists like our sleep apnea specialist Ginger Rome, DDS, here at The Dentists at North Cypress in Houston, Texas, can help you get a good night’s sleep using custom dental devices or oral appliances.
Let’s start by explaining sleep apnea and how it can impact your overall health. Sleep apnea, which causes interrupted breathing during sleep, has two main types of sleep disorders – obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is rare and occurs when the brain fails to signal the chest muscles to breathe in and out.
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is the more common type of sleep disorder. Partial or complete blockages to the upper airway cause OSA. During a typical sleep cycle, OSA sufferers can go through hundreds of breathing interruptions. For many patients, it plays out with snoring, followed by gasping, awkward snorting, and body jerks when the brain kicks in and wakes them up so they can resume normal breathing.
When you stop breathing, your blood oxygen levels drop suddenly. Simultaneously, your chest muscles need to work harder to open the airway, creating a risk for developing cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure, a stroke or heart attack.
But the impact of sleep apnea isn’t simply about snoring and sleep deprivation. When you don’t get a good night's sleep, it prevents your body from resetting and restoring. Specifically, during restful sleep, the brain clears toxins and catalogs memories and things learned. In addition, cells and tissues throughout the body perform healing and repair while the body releases many essential hormones for growth.
Not surprising, addressing sleep apnea is particularly important for patients who are at risk for metabolic conditions like diabetes or patients suffering from obesity or being overweight. It all comes back to those sudden drops in blood oxygen levels. When blood oxygen levels decrease, the carbon dioxide levels increase in the bloodstream. In turn, this can impact blood glucose metabolism or insulin resistance.
According to clinical research, these imbalances of blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels put you at a higher risk for developing diabetes, or if you already have it, sleep apnea can make it more difficult to manage diabetes. In the case of weight management, sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain or an increased risk of obesity and make it harder for you to manage a healthy weight.
As you probably know, the traditional treatment for OSA is a continuous positive airway pressure device, more commonly referred to as a CPAP. A CPAP delivers a consistent flow of air through a mask that keeps the airway open, preventing the patient from stopping breathing while they are asleep.
Technically, CPAP should work for a majority, if not all, OSA patients. The rub is it can’t work if you don’t use it. Unfortunately, some patients find CPAP uncomfortable to wear and difficult to clean. They simply can’t or won’t use it. That’s where a dental device or oral dental appliance comes in.
The Dentists at North Cypress team creates custom-made oral appliances to treat obstructive sleep apnea. It works by the dental device gently shifting your jaw forward to open your airways and prevent obstructions. Each dental device is tailor-made to fit to a patient’s specifications, and exceeds their comfort beyond that of a typical CPAP.
If you are a good candidate for an oral appliance, your dentist makes an impression of your teeth, and uses an in-office tool, called a pharyngometer or rhinometer, to measure the size and flexibility of your airways. This data is sent to a dental laboratory, which fabricates your dental device. When the device returns from the lab, you visit your dentist’s office for a fitting and treatment plan.
If you suffer from sleepless nights and want to know if a dental device is correct for you, contact The Dentists at North Cypress by giving us a call today or scheduling an appointment online.