Causes Of Sleep Apnea And Dental Device Treatment Options

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to have periodic breathing cessation episodes when you sleep. It is often called obstructive sleep apnea because people who have this condition often have an obstructed airway that can disrupt their normal breathing pattern. If it's not identified and treated, obstructive apnea can raise your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and severe daytime sleepiness. Here are some of the causes of sleep apnea and some sleep apnea treatment options that your dentist may recommend. 

Sleep Apnea Causes

There are various causes for obstructive apnea including acid reflux disease, obesity, and taking certain medications that can relax the back of your throat, causing the back of your tongue to slip back into your airway. When this happens, your airway may be obstructed, causing excessive snoring and apnea episodes during sleep. Lying on your back instead of your side can also predispose you to apnea episodes, especially if you have a large neck that can compress your airway while your sleep.

Drinking alcohol before bed can also lead to sleep apnea, as can having a history of chronic sinusitis. While these factors can play a role in the development of apnea, your primary healthcare provider or dentist will need to identify the exact cause so that a treatment plan can be implemented.

Dental Device Treatment Options

While severe obstructive apnea is often treated by using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine during sleep, other treatments may be just as effective and less intrusive to your sleep. A CPAP machine is connected to a hose and a breathing mask that you need to wear while you sleep because the machine gently pushes air into the back of your throat to keep your airway open.

Some people cannot tolerate wearing the mask, and because of this, are not compliant with their treatment. Effective dental apnea treatment options include dental appliances called mandibular advancement devices and mouth guards that you wear in your mouth when you sleep. These dental devices help correctly reposition your jaw and help keep your tongue in its correct position so that it does not slide into your airway. After a thorough oral examination, your dentist will determine which treatment option is right for your situation.

If you believe you may have obstructive sleep apnea, work with both your primary care physician and your dentist. Once the cause has been identified through physical and dental examinations and a clinical sleep study, you can then start your treatment so that you can enjoy restorative sleep and have more energy when you awaken.