Sleep apnea is a fairly common condition. People who have sleep apnea wake up sometimes hundreds of times while they sleep and many don't even realize they woke up at all. Some people with sleep apnea literally stop breathing during the night, sometimes for as long as a minute.
Aside from the obvious problem of not breathing, sleep apnea can make you feel fatigued or cause you to wake up with a dry mouth or short of breath. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to more serious conditions, such as high blood pressure or heart disease.
The next time you go to your dentist you can discuss your concern about possibly having sleep apnea. Your dentist can spot the symptoms of sleep apnea with an exam and can verify the suspicion by asking you some questions. If you frequently wake up with a dry mouth, a headache or lethargy, these are signs that point to a sleep apnea problem.
If your dentist suspects this is your problem, you will be referred to a sleep medicine specialist. The sleep medicine specialist assesses your condition and if they confirm that you suffer from sleep apnea, will send you back to your dentist for treatment.
There are various treatment options that depend on the severity of your condition. You may need only behavioral changes. These can include losing weight, changing the position you sleep in or quitting smoking or alcohol.
You may also have to wear a special appliance when you sleep that helps to keep the airway open. The appliance looks like a sports mouthguard, but it repositions your tongue and your jaw to help keep the airway open.
If you have a severe case you may have to wear a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) system. This medical device delivers air through a mask and it applies constant pressure to help keep the airway open.
Please contact our office if you have any questions about your oral health.