If you spend your nights tossing and turning, or if you wake up feeling like you haven’t slept at all, it may not immediately cross your mind to call your dentist—but you should. Dentists are on the forefront of treating an extremely common and dangerous sleep disease called sleep apnea. Sleep apnea could be to blame for your fatigue and restless nights, and your dentist has the tools you need to overcome your condition and get some much-needed rest. Here is what you need to know.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissue in your neck obstructs your airway while you are sleeping. As a result, you can’t get any oxygen. You will wake up, gasp for air, and then fall back to sleep in quick succession in episodes called apneas. Apneas can occur hundreds of time per night, and although you may not be aware that they are happening, they can significantly disrupt your ability to get restful sleep. In addition to disturbing your sleep, sleep apnea increases the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even injuries from car accidents that are linked to fatigued driving.
How do you know if you have sleep apnea?
Often, people don’t know that they have sleep apnea until a partner complains about their snoring or tells them that they seem to be gasping for air when asleep. In other instances, you may visit your doctor to complain about unexplained fatigue, and he or she may order a sleep study that identifies your sleep apnea.
How can a dentist help?
CPAP machines are a common treatment for sleep apnea. They involve a mask that you wear while sleeping that uses forced air to keep your airway open. Although they can be effective, many people cannot tolerate them. Your dentist can offer an alternative with oral appliance therapy. This treatment involves wearing a device similar to a night guard that is custom-made for your mouth. It shifts your jaw forward gently, so your airway stays open. It is an effective alternative to CPAPs and a useful conjunctive treatment if you have severe sleep apnea.
Take the first step to a better night of sleep with the help of your dentist at University Associates in Dentistry. To schedule a consultation for sleep apnea treatment in Chicago, call (312) 704-5511.