Sleep Apnoea: How your dentist can help you breathe

Does your partner or family complain that you snore? Do you wake up tired?

If you find yourself drowsy during the day you may actually have a life-threatening condition known as Sleep Apnoea. It is important to talk about the Oral Health symptoms of Sleep Apnoea.

Sleep Apnoea is a partial or complete blocking of the airways. There are several causes of Sleep Apnoea but one of the most common is the obstruction of the airway caused by the relaxation of muscles and soft tissue at the back of the throat. Being overweight and drinking excess alcohol may exacerbate the problem. Sleeping on your back can also affect your breathing. It is often more common but not restricted, to men.

During sleep, breathing is obstructed, resulting in snoring and gasping for breath. Sometimes a person may not breathe for up to two minutes. This sleep disorder is a serious medical condition. Action is needed if you think you or someone you know may have this respiratory disorder.

If not addressed your concentration will suffer and you may experience headaches, memory deterioration, irritability, depression, low sex drive, impotence and a general feeling of being unwell. Heart disease and high blood pressure have also been linked to Sleep Apnoea. Work performance can suffer and in in the cases of those who drive long distances may be fatal as daytime drowsiness is often a result of Sleep Apnoea.

The good news however, is that the condition can be managed. Firstly, a diagnosis is needed. Sleep Apnoea can take many forms and so an assessment at a sleep clinic may be required. This involves monitoring the patterns of your sleep in order to ascertain the best treatment. Alternatively, assessments can be done overnight at home with a small portable device that will monitor your breathing and provide other important medical information regarding your sleep patterns.

Once a diagnosis is confirmed there are various paths to take. A popular and successful option for many is wearing an Oral Appliance that can be made by your dentist. This appliance will bring your jaw and tongue forward and realign the soft palate. It is small, lightweight and custom made to fit each individual. Worn at night it can significantly reduce the noise level of snoring and relax the chest wall muscles that previously had to struggle to suck in air.

Lifestyle changes are also needed if you wish to obtain optimal health benefits. Avoiding excess alcohol, exercising and losing weight will all improve the quality of your life and aid in ensuring you and those around you get a good night’s sleep. Face the possibility that you may have a problem. It is the first hurdle towards getting the situation under control.

Another treatment option that you may have heard of are CPAP Machines. Continuous positive airway pressure machines have masks attached that fit over your nose at night and provide air. Some may find these machines are cumbersome and not easily portable but others prefer the masks as they awake feeling refreshed.  There are surgical procedures also available and these need to be discussed with your Oral Health Advisors as with any surgery, there can be complications.

A good place to start is with your dentist where you can discuss all the various options. An Oral Appliance may well work for you. If necessary referrals can be organised to Ear Nose and Throat Surgeons, Sleep and Respiratory Physicians or Oral Medical Specialists.

So, make an appointment with your dentist today if you think you may have Sleep Apnoea, snoring issues or any other sleep conditions.  You will notice a definite improvement in the quality of your life and Oral Health, if you take steps to get a good night’s sleep.