Sleep Apnea: The Not-So Silent Killer
To diagnose and treat sleep disorders, most people assume they should talk to their primary care physician or head over to a hospital-based sleep lab. But did you know that your dentist can also treat a sleep disorder? If you have untreated sleep apnea, it’s time to make an appointment with your dentist.
“Many people don’t realize just how serious sleep apnea really is,” says Dr. Nick Augenbaum of Long Island Implant and Cosmetic Dentistry. “When left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to life-threatening complications.” Dr. Elliot Koschitzki of the same dental practice adds, “Drug-free sleep apnea treatments from your dentist’s office can greatly improve your sleep and support your overall health.”
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that is characterized by the cyclical disruption of respiratory function during sleep. People with sleep apnea stop breathing for a few seconds to a minute or longer. When the brain senses the lack of oxygen, it forces the sleeper to briefly awaken to restart breathing. The resumption of breathing is often accompanied by a loud snorting or choking noise. Most patients are unaware that they’re waking up dozens of times each night. In severe cases, patients might cease breathing and wake up about 30 times in just one hour.
Why is sleep apnea so dangerous?
Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that requires effective management to prevent life-threatening complications. Without proper treatment, the continual fluctuations in oxygen levels during sleep cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of:
- Heart attack
Untreated sleep apnea increases the risk of heart failure. In patients who already have heart failure, sleep apnea can worsen the condition. Furthermore, sleep apnea increases the risk of heart arrhythmias. It also causes excessive daytime sleepiness and impaired concentration, which increase the risk of car crashes and other accidents.
Dentistry treatments for sleep apnea
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) has long been considered the standard in treating patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea, but it does have many drawbacks. For starters, many people find the CPAP mask uncomfortable and the machine noisy, prohibiting the good night’s sleep that it’s intended to produce. In fact, some patients stop using it altogether, which can have disastrous health consequences.
As a more comfortable alternative, dentists can provide oral appliance therapy. Patients who have previously undergone orthodontic treatment should have no problem adjusting to a custom-fitted oral appliance, which is only worn during sleep. The oral appliance is easily slipped into place before a patient goes to sleep to gently nudge the jaw into maintaining a slightly forward position. This holds the airways open during sleep, preventing the cessation of breathing.
Dr. Nick and Dr. Elliot are experienced sleep apnea dentists and can create custom-fitted oral appliances for patients with sleep apnea. We take the time to carefully make any necessary adjustments to ensure a perfect, comfortable fit. We’ll also show you how to take good care of your custom oral appliance and we’ll recommend an appropriate follow-up schedule for your unique needs. Call our Long Island dentistry office today.
Additional sleep apnea resources
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, What Is Sleep Apnea? https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sleepapnea
American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, Oral Appliance Therapy, http://www.aadsm.org/oralappliances.aspx