What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea (ap-nee-ah) is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. Sleep apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you'll often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep.

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder. You may have sleep apnea if you snore loudly and you feel tired even after a full night's sleep.

The main types of sleep apnea are:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax.
  • Central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Classification Of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

An apneic event is a cessation of breathing for 10 seconds or more. Hypopnea is measured by a partial cessation of breathing and a decrease in blood oxygen saturation. Can you imagine not breathing for 25 seconds, 30 times every hour during the night? How much life-giving oxygen would be going to your brain?

The severities of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) are measured by the Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI).

The number of apneas plus hypopneas in an hour is the index number. An AHI of 5 or below is considered normal/acceptable.

  • An AHI between 6 and 15 is called Mild OSA.
  • Between 16 and 30 is Moderate OSA.
  • Above 30 events per hour is Severe OSA.

The preferred treatment for Mild and Moderate cases is a comfortable intra-oral custom made appliance. In the severe cases the preferred treatment is a CPAP (or BiPAP, APAP) but more than 50% of these patients will not, or do not, use their CPAP. For those patients, who are designated "CPAP Intolerant" an intra-oral appliance will produce good results.

What Conditions Contribute To Sleep Apnea?

There are a number of factors that increase risk, including:

  • Small upper airway (or large tongue, tonsils or uvula).
  • Being overweight.
  • Having a recessed chin.
  • Small jaw or a large overbite.
  • A large neck size (17 inches or greater in a man, or 16 inches or greater in a woman).
  • Smoking and alcohol use.
  • Being age 40 or older.
  • Ethnicity (African-Americans, Pacific-Islanders and Hispanics).
  • Also, OSA seems to run in some families, suggesting a possible genetic basis.

OSA Will Cause Or Exacerbate:

  • Motor vehicle accidents (fatigue and sleepiness)
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Strokes
  • GERD (Acid Reflux)
  • Bruxism/ Periodontal disease/ Abfractions
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attacks
  • Heart tachycardia
  • ADHD in children
  • Dementia
  • Headaches
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Frequent urination
  • 46% higher risk of death
  • Marital alienation
  • Cancer deaths

Can you see the importance of screening for this disease? Can you see how treating OSA ties in with Dentistry?

Sleep Apnea Solutions from Ave Marie Dentistry

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