What is sleep apnoea?
Wahroonga Dental support several patients with sleeping disorders which stem from oral issues including Sleep Apnoea. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a condition that occurs during sleep and affects 4% of Australians. The airway is often obstructed by relaxed muscles in the jaw, tongue and neck which then completely blocks the flow of air which interferes with normal breathing habits. Due to this airway obstruction the body’s oxygen levels decrease and carbon dioxide levels peak. Receptors in the body sense this unnatural change which results in an abrupt arousal from a deep sleep where the sleeper usually gasps for air or chokes.
What are the signs of sleep apnoea?
Signs and symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea are varied, may be related to other lifestyle choices and differs from person to person. The most common signs found in OSA sufferers include:
- Loud and continuous snoring – which may mostly affect a significant other
- Tossing and turning during the duration of the evening
- Frequently waking up during the night
- Gasping and choking for air during sleep
- Daytime tiredness (hypersomnia)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Difficulty getting to sleep (insomnia)
- Multiple episodes of breathing cessation
How sleep apnoea is officially diagnosed
Sleep apnoea is often first noticed by a partner as the OSA sufferer may never awake to a conscious level during their OSA episodes and are best placed to know the number of episodes there are and know how loud their partner’s snoring is. When attending the first OSA dentist appointment or consultation it is a good idea to bring your partner along as they may provide invaluable information.
If it is suspected you have OSA, your dentist will then perform a physical examination of your mouth, nose and throat, who often looks for issues with the tonsils or soft palate as they are the usual suspects of OSA related airway blockages.
Finally, it may be recommended that you undergo a sleep study before the final diagnosis is made. The sleep study is usually carried out externally at a specialised sleeping clinic but a take-home version of the kit is also readily available.
How is sleep apnoea treated
Sleep apnoea can be treated in a number of ways, depending on the severity of the condition. An oral appliance, also known as a mandibular advancement splint (MAS) or mandibular advancement device (MAD), is one of the most common methods used to treat sleep apnoea.
After a sleep study is taken, you can be assessed for suitability. If you are suitable for an oral appliance, your dentist will take data from your sleep study to construct an oral appliance custom-made for your mouth.
This appliance is specifically constructed to a clinically determined bite position. This is the position for which your lower jaw is at rest, while your muscles are completely relaxed.
Once constructed, your dentist will ask you to trial the oral appliance for a few weeks. After this time, a second sleep study can be conducted to monitor any changes since the last study. Your oral appliance may then be adjusted according to the results, based n objective data. The objective is to reduce or stop the snoring completely.
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