How Can Your Dentist Treat Sleep Apnea?

Have you ever been awoken at night by the unbearable sound of your partner snoring, or worse, by the sound of your own snoring? If so, then you are definitely not alone. It’s estimated that 40% of adults over the age of 40 snore on a regular basis, resulting in restless nights and groggy mornings. What’s more alarming, explains Dr. Donald Crow, an experienced dentist in Everett, Washington, is that of those adults who snore, about 20% suffer from a serious medical condition known as obstructive sleep apnea. This condition actually causes sufferers to stop breathing momentarily during periods of sleep.

What does a dentist know about snoring and sleep apnea? As it turns out, your jaw and tissues in the throat and mouth are major contributors to both snoring and sleep apnea. Research has shown, Dr. Crow explains, that snoring is caused by the vibration of tissues that occur when the airway is narrowed or collapsed. This restriction occurs both in the throat and the nasal passage. Another reason for snoring, he continues, is that the tongue sometimes falls back into the airway passage during sleep, which causes an obstruction that could lead to snoring.

While snoring is more of a nuisance, sleep apnea can become a major medical issue. Although you cannot directly die from sleep apnea, it is closely linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke because it limits the amount of oxygen that your organs receive. Symptoms of sleep apnea include excessive tiredness during the day, snoring, choking while sleeping, or gasping for air. Very often, Dr. Crow adds, sleep apnea will cause sufferers to wake up momentarily but fail to remember the incident the next morning.

For those who are concerned that they may have obstructive sleep apnea, Dr. Crow explains that there are two tests available to determine whether the condition exists or not. You can either participate in a sleep study that occurs in a lab, he says, or you can take equipment home with you that measures and records your levels of snoring and the oxygen levels in your blood during sleep.

Because Dr. Crow is so passionate about not only the oral health of his patients but their overall health as well, he is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and has received training specific to treating the occurrence of sleep apnea and snoring. At Crow Family Dentistry, he says, patients are fitted with specially designed oral appliances that can eliminate snoring and reduce mild occurrences of sleep apnea as well. These appliances work, Dr. Crow continues, by holding the lower jaw forward, which in turn tightens the soft tissues and muscles of the upper airway to keep it open. Additionally, the appliances are also able to hold the tongue forward and restrict it from blocking the airway. In extreme cases, he says, surgery may be required to permanently correct the problem and enable sufferers to get the sleep they need and deserve.

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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