Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. Ongoing disrupted breathing causes an imbalance between the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the bloodstream, as not enough carbon dioxide is exiting and not enough oxygen is entering the body.
Sensing this imbalance, the brain sends a message to the body, telling it to wake up to restart the breathing process. People with sleep apnea will partially awake as they struggle to breathe, and this is often accompanied by loud snoring or choking sensations. Because people with sleep apnea don’t always completely awake during the episodes, they are often unaware they have a sleeping disorder and it can remain undiagnosed.
Reason for treating sleep apnea
It is very important to seek medical attention if sleep apnea is suspected. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissue lying at the back of the patient’s throat collapses into the airway. The tongue then falls towards the back of the throat which tightens the blockage and prevents oxygen from entering the lungs.
The problem worsens when the chest region, diaphragm, and abdomen fight for air. The efforts they make to obtain vital oxygen only cause a further tightening of the blockage. The patient must arouse from deep sleep to tense the tongue and remove the soft tissue from the airway. Sleep apnea has been linked to a series of serious heart-related conditions, and should be investigated by the dentist at the earliest opportunity.
What does sleep apnea treatment involve?
Initially, the dentist will coordinate with a sleep study physician to conduct tests in order to investigate, diagnose, and pinpoint a suitable treatment. The dentist can offer many different treatment options which depend largely on the exact diagnosis and the health of the patient. The dentist may advise the patient to halt some habits that aggravate sleep apnea such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and tranquilizer use.
CPAP masks and forced air machines were traditionally used to keep the patient’s airways open while they slept, but today there are less intrusive options. Dental devices that gently move the lower jaw downward and forward are very effective in preventing the tongue from blocking the main air passage. These dental devices often help patients avoid surgical intervention.
TAP® 3 Appliance (Thornton Adjustable Positioner)
The TAP® 3 is the smallest, most comfortable sleep apnea dental appliance. It is a two-part custom-created sleep apnea appliance that fits over the teeth in much the same way as a sports mouthguard. The TAP® 3 projects the jaw forward to prevent the tongue and soft tissues from impeding the airway. The lower jaw positioner is adjustable, which means that it can be altered to suit the comfort level of the wearer.
If you feel you may benefit from sleep apnea treatment, contact our practice today.