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The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common disorder in which a person’s breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. It can lead to serious health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Additionally, it can cause fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating during the day. Unfortunately, you may be unaware that you have this potentially dangerous condition. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, talk to your dentist at Tyma Trachtenberg Dental to discuss your treatment options.

Portrait of one tired woman snoring in bed sleep apnea dentist in Doylestown Pennsylvania

How Does Sleep Apnea Occur?

OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax too much during sleep, causing an airway blockage. This can cause someone to stop breathing, lasting several seconds to a minute. When the brain senses the lack of oxygen, it panics and wakes you briefly to reopen the airway. This cycle can occur multiple times a night, disrupting sleep. Unfortunately, this can put your body under much stress and disrupt your sleep quality.

What are the Risk Factors?

Several factors can increase your risk of developing OSA. For example, patients considered obese or have a family history of the condition have an increased risk of OSA. Additionally, some lifestyle habits like smoking or alcohol use are other common risk factors. Men are more likely to develop OSA than women. In addition, it becomes more common as people age.

OSA can increase your risk of severe heart problems, among other health issues. When you stop breathing multiple times a night, it puts your body under extreme stress. As a result, your heart has to work harder to supply oxygen to the rest of your body. Additionally, your body produces stress hormones that can damage your immune system over long periods.

What are the Treatment Options?

Several treatment options are available for OSA, including lifestyle changes, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), and oral appliance therapy. Lifestyle changes like weight loss and avoiding alcohol can effectively reduce the severity of OSA. A CPAP is a machine that delivers a constant flow of oxygen to keep your airway open. While CPAP is effective, some patients find it uncomfortable and have difficulty using it consistently.

Oral appliance therapy is an alternative treatment for OSA that your dentist can provide. This device resembles a mouthguard because your dentist will customize it to your mouth, and you wear it while you sleep. It pushes the jaw forward, which helps to keep the airway open during sleep. Oral appliances are easy to wear, portable, and often more comfortable than CPAP.

It’s important to note that oral appliance therapy does not cure OSA. Lifestyle changes and other treatments may also be necessary. Additionally, it would be best if you only used oral appliances under the guidance of a dentist or sleep specialist.

If you are experiencing symptoms of OSA, such as loud snoring, gasping or choking during sleep, or excessive daytime sleepiness, it is vital to seek medical attention. In addition, your dentist can recommend a sleep study to diagnose OSA and determine the severity of the disorder.