Most notably, dentists are the masters of all things tooth and oral health-related. If you struggle to sleep through the night, you might blame the discomfort of your bed, work stress, noisy neighbors, and other factors before even considering a medical assessment, much less consulting your dentist. It might surprise you even more to find out that your specific sleep concerns are related to the alignment of your teeth and jaws and are causing obstructive sleep apnea, one of the most common sleep disorders.
Dr. Katie Vo is passionate about creating healthy, beautiful smiles and feels blessed to have the opportunity to serve her patients and community. At Texas Family Orthodontics, you’ll find the specific medical treatment you need to get a good night’s sleep.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is a common sleeping disorder in which you experience repeated breathing interruptions as you sleep. These disruptions can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes but are enough to signal your brain to wake you to regulate your breathing.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your throat muscles relax, or something else causes your airway to become obstructed. Patients with obstructive sleep apnea and their partners may notice snoring, gasping, or choking while sleeping. Pauses in breathing during sleep have also been noticed.
This pattern of sleep disruption can cause you to wake in the morning feeling unrested and lead to other symptoms the next day, such as dry mouth and throat, fatigue, and irritability. Over time, untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to more severe health concerns, from headaches and depression to diabetes, stroke, and heart conditions.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Because there are few noticeable symptoms of sleep apnea, most cases go undiagnosed despite as much as 9% of adults suffering from this common sleep disorder. Perhaps the most prominent indicator of obstructive sleep apnea is heavy snoring, but that’s not to say all those who snore loudly are suffering from this disorder.
Patients may also have a series of adverse side effects in their day-to-day life, often resulting in lower energy levels and feeling exhausted during the day, even if you think you got enough sleep the night before. Some other symptoms to take note of and mention to your physician or Dr. Vo are:
- Nighttime restlessness
- Insomnia and frequent waking
- Choking or gasping awake
- Vivid or threatening dreams
- Loss of concentration
- Headaches, especially in the morning
- Cognitive deficits
- Mood changes
How can sleep apnea benefit from orthodontic treatment?
While you sleep, your mouth and jaw muscles will relax with the rest of your body. This relaxation is entirely normal, but the issue arises when you sleep on your back, causing your jaw to slide backward, narrowing the throat. Sleep apnea symptoms present themselves as you attempt to breathe air through that restricted space.
Often, when a patient’s airway isn’t blocked by issues with the throat muscles, the culprit can be traced to orthodontic problems like teeth and jaw misalignment or a dental arch issue. Bite problems are common and can be an overbite, where your upper front teeth extend over your lower front teeth, an underbite, where your lower front teeth rest in front of your upper front teeth, or an open bite, which is when your upper and lower front teeth do not meet at all.
Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
While studies are still being conducted, a notable correlation between certain hereditary aspects and lifestyle habits is associated with developing sleep apnea. While anyone can be diagnosed with sleep apnea, it is more commonly diagnosed in men than in women and is found more often in older people than in children. Some more common risk factors are:
- Being overweight
- A small airway
- High blood pressure
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Excessive Smoking or Drinking
Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea
There are many benefits to treating sleep apnea – less snoring and headaches, more quality sleep, and a better mood, to name a few. Fortunately, there are treatment options that can help individuals keep breathing while asleep, and the Texas Family Orthodontics team will help you find the treatment that’s right for your case.
Before spending your time and money on costly treatments, patients can make lifestyle changes that set them up for positive and healthy sleep success. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, and avoiding drug and excessive alcohol use are a few ways to help mitigate your sleep apnea. Alternately, sleeping on your side at night can alleviate most mild cases of airway obstruction during sleep.
For patients experiencing mild to moderate symptoms like loud snoring, Dr. Vo may recommend a mouthpiece or mouthguard to maintain optimum positioning for breathing. Depending on your specific obstruction, you may need a mandibular advancement device that physically positions your jaw forward to expand your airway or a tongue retaining device that grips the tongue to prevent it from falling into your airway, blocking your breathing.
In cases where the physical positioning of your teeth or the alignment of your bite is the cause of your obstructive sleep apnea, Dr. Vo can utilize braces, aligners, or a device called a rapid palate expander to create the space and shape you need to breathe without any blockages.
Sleep apnea is often observed and identified through a sleep study, which allows medical professionals to monitor your breathing, heart rate, brain activity, and oxygen levels throughout the night. Through such evaluations, it can be determined if the patient actually suffers from sleep apnea or another sleeping disorder. With sleep apnea treatment at Texas Family Orthodontics, we can help you find the most effective solution for your sleep apnea so you can sleep through the night!
Dreams of a good night’s sleep and a straight smile come true with Texas Family Orthodontics!
Sleep apnea is a serious condition with more risks than just loud snoring. Since many people do not realize they have sleep apnea or assume they do not need professional treatment, they might continue to struggle with the condition until treated.
Don’t lose sleep over your teeth. The talented team at Texas Family Orthodontics can treat and share more information about sleep apnea if you or a loved one is suffering from the many side effects of sleep apnea. Get in touch today to schedule your visit at our conveniently located San Antonio or Windcrest office and get started on your path to better sleep!