When we sleep, our body, lungs, and airway continue to work by inhaling and exhaling air. Sleep apnea occurs when there is a failure to execute this process. The word apnea is defined by a pause or break in breathing. The pauses may occur from ten seconds to a few minutes and may occur numerous times per hour.

The two main types of sleep apnea are obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the more common of the two, and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the result of the muscles in the back of the throat failing to keep the airway open during sleep.  Central sleep apnea is the result of the brain failing to control breathing properly during sleep. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of OSA and CSA.

Although common, sleep apnea is a serious condition that can increase the risk of heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and arrhythmia. Changes in lifestyle are recommended to reduce the severity of the disorder.  Weight loss, avoiding smoking, avoiding consuming alcohol, and sleeping in positions other than on ones back are also recommended in reducing the likelihood of developing sleep apnea.

Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is most commonly the use of a CPAP machine which is a mask worn on the nose and mouth during sleep that gently forces air through the airway, keeping it open.  Your dentist may also provide a treatment or solution with a fitted oral appliance that repositions the lower jaw and tongue, which prevent the collapse of the tongue and airway and allow air to flow.

If you believe that you have sleep apnea or show any symptoms of it, please contact our office immediately for an evaluation.