Sleep apnea is a widespread problem that affects hundreds of thousands of people every year. It is a serious issue, one that can even be fatal. But what is sleep apnea? Dr. Rhonda Savage, who owns a cutting edge dental practice, Uptown Dental Gig Harbor, explains the problem and what can be done to treat it in this report.
Dr. Savage explains that sleep apnea is a condition that can affect a patient’s ability to breathe while they are sleeping. While there are several kinds of sleep apnea, this discussion focuses on obstructive sleep apnea. Simply stated, a patient’s tongue falls backward and blocks the airway. It might be caused by the physical structure of a patient’s throat, such as having too much tissue in the throat. When the tongue falls back, it vibrates against the back of the throat and soft palate and produces the snoring sound most of us are familiar with. Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, “but a lot of patients who snore do have sleep apnea.” Sleep apnea is a cessation of breathing at night, meaning that a patient is not getting enough oxygen.
Other types of sleep apnea are central sleep apnea, a condition that can only be diagnosed through an in-clinic sleep study. Another sleep disorder is upper airway resistance disorder. This is a condition where a patient does not have the ability to keep the airway open at night. “We see this a lot with women that are thin, fit, and still feel tired and exhausted during the day.” This is another disorder that requires testing at a sleep clinic.
Sleep apnea can have many causes. A common one is being overweight. “We gain weight, and then that puts pressure on our neck,” Dr. Savage explains. Some sleep apnea patients have a genetic issue. Sleep apnea can be induced by medication or alcohol consumption.
Treatment of sleep apnea requires a proper diagnosis in the first place. Dr. Savage uses a questionnaire for her patients to let them grade their sleep quality. Then, she uses an in-home sleep study. If the results indicate sleep apnea, treatment can begin. One option is an oral appliance that advances the lower jaw, keeping the airway open at night. A familiar treatment option is a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure). There are newer CPAP options that are more comfortable for patients than some of the older machines. Another treatment option is to surgically open up the airway by an ENT physician. Sometimes, jaw surgery is the solution.
It’s important to understand that sleep apnea is more than an annoying snoring sound at night that disturbs your bed partner. Dr. Savage says that “some patients gaps for air at night, and that’s really hard on the body.” This can increase the risk of stroke or heart attack. Sleep apnea patients can also get more cavities because snoring dries out the mouth. Gum disease can also be a result. Another issue is that people just don’t feel well when they are not getting good sleep. Sleep apnea can lead to stomach problems, including acid reflux. Lack of good quality sleep can affect short term memory.
Dr. Rhonda R. Savage, DDS, CSP, owner of Uptown Dental Gig Harbor in Gig Harbor, Washington. She has almost four decades of experience in the field, including service as a dental assistant and a Navy dentist during the years of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In addition to providing excellent general, cosmetic, and restorative dentistry services, Dr. Savage focuses on the total health and well-being of her patients with the TruDenta® system of pain relief. Because she believes that when patients sleep well, they are generally healthier, Dr. Savage provides diagnosis and treatment of snoring and/or sleep apnea, as well as treatments for TMJ Dysfunction (TMD), migraine headaches and/or tension headaches. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.