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What is Sleep Apnea?


Woman covering ears while husband snoresSleep apnea is a category of sleep disorders that involve your breathing sporadically halting while you sleep. This affects approximately 22 million Americans according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. About 80% of moderate or severe sleep apnea conditions are undiagnosed. Your dentist can give you more information regarding sleep apnea when you schedule a consultation today by contacting us at Cherry Hill Dental Smiles.

Symptoms


Sleep apnea is often undiagnosed, so it is important to know the symptoms. You may notice these on yourself, but people often point them out to each other as well. Some of the more obvious sleep apnea symptoms include snoring, gasping and episodes of your breathing coming to a halt while you sleep. Secondary symptoms brought on by a lack of sleep include headaches, hypersomnia, insomnia, irritability and difficulty concentrating. Waking up with a dry mouth could also indicate sleep apnea since it may mean that your mouth was open while you slept.

Causes


Sleep apnea, being a group of conditions, can have several different causes. However, there are three main types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. This occurs because your throat muscles relax too much when you sleep. Relaxation of these muscles, which support your tonsils, throat walls, soft palette and tongue, can cause your airway to close. This often makes you jump out of your sleep briefly so that your airway opens.

Central sleep apnea is far less common as it is a neurologically-based condition. This happens when your brain stops sending nerve signals to muscles involved in breathing. When this happens, these muscles stop functioning briefly, thereby shutting off your breathing temporarily.

Complex sleep apnea is hard to diagnose because it is actually a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. This is usually diagnosed in response to failed treatment methods that only resolve symptoms of one type, rather than both.

Treatment


Sleep apnea treatment can be worked on both professionally and at home. The most common treatment for sleep apnea is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. This is a machine that you wear while you sleep. It helps to maintain air pressure so that your airway stays open throughout the night. Other air pressure-based treatments include oral appliances, adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV) and supplemental oxygen. ASV both maintains airflow and records data about your sleep into its computer. This helps to diagnose underlying heart or neurological conditions that may be associated with central sleep apnea.

If home treatment methods have not worked, then medical intervention may be necessary. For instance, surgical methods can be used. Some of these include jaw repositioning, tissue shrinkage or removal, nerve stimulation, implants and tracheostomy.

Jaw repositioning is a method that moves the jaw forward and creates more space for breathing. Tissue shrinkage and removal creates more space for airflow through manipulation of the surrounding tissue. Nerve stimulation requires a stimulator that is surgically inserted which keeps your tongue in a position to allow airflow. Implants can be made of either plastic or soft polyester. These rods are placed in your soft palate to improve airflow. Tracheostomy is the creation of a new airway through a hole in your neck. A metal or plastic tube is inserted here to assist in breathing. This is one of the more extreme treatment options. Please contact Cherry Hill Dental Smiles by calling 856-528-7177 today.
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