Most people associate sleep apnea with heavy snoring, gasping, and loud breathing while sleeping. When you’re asleep, you’re not likely to notice this happening, but a spouse or roommate might hear you and become concerned. There are other symptoms of sleep apnea – dry mouth, headaches, and tooth grinding for example – that are not as recognizable and may be overlooked. Learn four facts about sleep apnea and find out how a periodontist can help diagnose apnea before the more noticeable signs occur.
Sleep Apnea is a Treatable Condition
Sleep apnea occurs when you’re at rest and the throat muscles relax. Usually, this does not pose a problem, but in people with sleep apnea, the muscles relax too much. This obstructs the airway and oxygen levels drop. When your oxygen levels drop, a message goes out to your brain to breathe and get the oxygen levels back to normal. As this happens, the person gasps or snorts as that deep breath is taken. The gaps in normal breathing can be scary, but they are treatable.
Certain Factors Increase Your Risk for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea occurs in both children and adults, though it is more common in adults over the age of 40. There are risk factors that increase your chances of developing the condition. This includes a family history, obesity, and use of alcohol or cigarettes. The size of your neck can also influence whether you’ll be diagnosed with sleep apnea or not. For men, a neck size of 17 inches or more increases the risk, and for women it’s 16 inches.
Some of these factors can be eliminated. Losing weight reduces your risk, but you can also stop smoking or reduce your consumption of alcoholic beverages. If there is a family history of sleep apnea, see a doctor and discuss steps you can take to remain healthy.
Health Risks That Occur With Sleep Apnea
Left untreated, the interrupted sleep caused by sleep apnea can make you drowsy during the day. If this happens, it can affect your reaction times when driving. It also makes you less aware of the driving hazards around you. People with sleep apnea are more likely to have heart attacks or strokes. They’re also more likely to develop high blood pressure.
How Professionals Diagnose and Treat Sleep Apnea
It is very difficult for a doctor to diagnose sleep apnea. There are no tests that can quickly tell you if you have the condition or not. This is why many cases of sleep apnea are diagnosed by a periodontist. They see evidence of the symptoms like dry mouth and teeth grinding.
In some cases of sleep apnea, particularly mild cases, the treatment is as simple as wearing a mouthpiece that is customized for your jaw. This mouthpiece helps align your tongue and lower jaw to help keep your airway open while you sleep.
For more severe cases of sleep apnea, a CPAP machine is used to keep the airway open using air pressure. Because a CPAP machine can lead to dry mouth, you should talk to your periodontist about oral rinses that help prevent dry mouth and the bacterial growth that is more common in people with dry mouth.
If you have or suspect you might have sleep apnea, contact Dr. Gallardo or Dr. Lamas, Miami periodontists, to learn more about diagnosing and treating the condition. Read more about the doctors at Gallardo & Lamas Periodontists and Implant Dentistry and then call their Miami office to schedule a consultation. That number is (305) 447-1447.