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What Is Sleep Apnea?

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Have you recently learned about sleep apnea after researching ways to stop snoring? Or, have you just found out that this might be the cause of your excessive daytime sleepiness? In either case, learning about sleep apnea helps you see how our dentist in Fairfax Corner can help you regain control over your breathing.

Sleep apnea is a term that doctors and dentists use to describe a condition where you stop breathing intermittently during your sleep. These intermittent episodes of disruptions in your breathing can happen multiple times during a single hour, and most people have them happen throughout the entire night. As disturbing as it is to know that you stop breathing at night, you don’t have to let this condition ruin your sweet dreams. New treatment options for sleep apnea are like a dream come true for anyone who struggles with this condition.

What Makes Sleep Apnea Occur?

You need an open and clear airway to breathe properly, which usually isn’t a problem during the day when you are standing or sitting up. Once you lay on your back, however, the force of gravity can cause your mouth and throat tissues to fall into your airway. The relaxation of these tissues and muscles is the reason behind why your airway can suddenly get blocked. At some point in the process, your brain will pick up on the fact that you aren’t breathing. You’ll then get a jolt to your system that is meant to jumpstart your breathing, and this has the effect of briefly waking you up.

The other cause of sleep apnea is more of a brain-related issue rather than a blockage in your airway. Some people have a momentary blip in their brain waves that stops them from receiving the signal that it is time to breathe. When this happens, you’ll start breathing again shortly after the episode, but you’ll wake up tired from not getting enough oxygen all night.

Which Sleep Apnea Risk Factors Can You Control?

There are two kinds of sleep apnea risk factors, and these are the ones within your control and others that might not be so simple to fix. Being older and born a male are two factors that you don’t have control over, but knowing that these two things place you at higher risk for sleep-related disruptions in your breathing can help you choose to get assessed for this condition or try a treatment.

Falling into the category of being overweight or obese is a factor that you might have more control over, depending upon the cause of your excess pounds. Most people are capable of shedding some weight to reduce the fat that accumulates in their neck and oral tissues that can block the airway. Avoiding smoking, excessive drinking, or the use of sedatives, either street drugs or prescribed, are additional things that you can do to reduce your risk for sleep apnea.

Will Sleep Apnea Cause Noticeable Symptoms?

The answer to this is yes and no. Some people have no idea that they have sleep apnea at first. A single or occasional episodes can be so brief that you wake up later without knowing what your body just went through. However, chronic and severe cases of sleep apnea will eventually begin to create symptoms that are hard to ignore, even if it might take some time to realize that a lack of oxygen and proper rest are the culprits. Asking yourself these questions can shed some light on whether or not sleep apnea is causing you problems.

  • Do you wake up coughing and/or gasping for air?
  • Has anyone ever said that you snore loudly?
  • Is your sleeping partner concerned about you having strange breathing patterns?
  • Have you been struggling with brain fog or fatigue with no other known cause?
  • Do you wake up and have trouble falling back asleep without knowing why?

What Is the Most Common Sleep Apnea Type?

Most people who seek a diagnosis for this disorder will find out that they have obstructive sleep apnea. This means that you have some part of your anatomy that blocks off your airway. For some people, this means the tongue is falling back towards the throat, and others might discover that they have extremely large tonsils. But, most people will learn that they have a narrowed passageway that they were born with or developed due to weight gain or inflammation.

There is also the other type that is called central sleep apnea. You’ll want to ask about this type if you have heart disease or other underlying health conditions that impact your breathing and oxygen levels. This is the type that is associated with the brain failing to send signals to the rest of your body to breathe, and you might need to try different treatments for this type. Some people find that medication adjustments can help manage the underlying disorder that contributes to the apnea episodes.

Are There Special Treatments for Sleep Apnea?

Each type of treatment for sleep apnea is meant to address the underlying cause, and they range from being the least invasive to more intensive forms of therapy that can include surgery. Before you agree to go under the knife, it is better to talk to your dentist in Fairfax Corner about using non-surgical options, such as dental appliances. These are a solution for keeping the tongue and soft tissue in your mouth from becoming a hindrance to air moving through your windpipe.

Dental appliances are very effective for sleep apnea, but you might still need to make some basic lifestyle changes that include losing weight and trying to sleep on your side. Doctors may also prescribe a CPAP machine that uses gentle amounts of pressure to help get air through the airway and into your lungs.

How Does a Dentist in Fairfax Corner Help People With Sleep Apnea?

A dentist is the best person to help you select a dental appliance that fits your mouth properly, which increases your ability to stay compliant with your treatment plan. An ill-fitting appliance is more likely to sit in its case, which doesn’t help you with your breathing. Your dentist in Fairfax Corner can help you find the perfect dental appliance for moving your jaw forward and your tongue and soft tissues away from your airway. Give our office a call today for a consultation that could help you start breathing better from the very first night of using your new sleep apnea appliance.

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(703) 997-0928