These days, sleep apnea is quite a familiar phrase - a common complaint coming from patients of all ages. With sleep apnea, a patient will experience a pause in their breathing during sleep. For some, there may be a number of pauses throughout the night. A pause in breathing can be for a few seconds or even a few minutes. In most cases, normal breathing resumes after a breathing pause, and a resulting snorting sound is not uncommon.
The problem with a sleep apnea experience is that the normal sleep pattern is disturbed. Simply put, a breathing pause will cause a shift from a restful, deep sleep to a less restful, light sleep. The worst thing for sleep apnea sufferers is a poor quality of sleep. Patients complain of being over-tired during the day, and of being sleepy from time to time throughout the day. Because of these symptoms, a sound diagnosis is an important first step.
Excessive snoring, because it’s so obvious and pervasive, is often an indicator of sleep apnea. But there are other symptoms as well, some of which are not so obvious. For an experienced dentist, symptom complaints like a dry mouth, daytime fatigue, and morning headaches could be signs of sleep apnea. Not surprisingly, the dentist is often the first health professional to associate patient symptoms with sleep apnea, and to bring up the possibility.
Suspicion of sleep apnea may require further exploration at a Sleep Clinic, where a patient’s sleep patterns can be monitored, and a precise diagnosis determined. Once diagnosed, patients can be actually be treated by their dentist, with an oral appliance that’s designed to open the breathing airways during sleep. Depending on the extent of the condition, and personal health status, this may well be the most effective way to deal with sleep apnea.
For patients with mild symptoms of sleep apnea, lifestyle changes might be adequate. This would include changes to sleeping patterns; significant weight loss; even total smoking cessation. For some patients, the solution is a personalized dental appliance that is used overnight. It resembles a conventional athletic mouth guard, repositioning the jaw so that breathing passages allow for improved airflow. Improved symptoms are a sign of success.
In some cases, patients experience something called Obstructive Sleep Apnea - in other words, a breathing pause that lasts longer than 10 seconds (while sleeping). With OSA, the oral appliance approach has proven effective for most patients. It’s a custom made appliance, personalized for a patient, and reducing the effects of sleep apnea, while diminishing chronic snoring. These types of oral appliances must be worn nightly for best results.
For patients suffering with sleep apnea, oral appliances must be used with ongoing consistency. At the Mackenzie Dental Centre, patient experience has shown that success comes primarily from patient commitment to treatment. The Mackenzie dental team is well trained and knowledgeable, and patients can feel confident that they are in the most capable hands.