A good night's sleep has the power to restore the body and enliven the mind. For the millions of Australians who experience symptoms of sleep disordered breathing and sleep apnoea, a good night's sleep also has the power to save their lives.
Obstructive sleep apnoea is a serious, life-threatening disorder that is characterised as a series of episodes where a person stops breathing for 10 seconds or longer during sleep. And by stops breathing – this means the person is suffocating over and over during the night.
How would you know if you have sleep apnoea?
Snoring is a major indicator, but not all symptoms are so obvious—and audible. A dentist can detect the less evident symptoms of sleep apnoea through an open conversation with a patient, in conjunction with a dental and physical examination.
A Dentists Role in Sleep Apnoea
A dentist may suspect a patient suffers from sleep apnoea if the patient complains about lethargy, morning headaches, dry mouth (typically caused by open mouth breathing during sleep) or teeth clenching/grinding.
Dentists are often the first professionals to become aware of a potential problem since they are usually in contact with their patients more frequently than are doctors and are actually looking in the mouth for tell tale signs of sleep breathing issues.
Dentists will send patients with symptoms of sleep apnoea to a sleep medicine specialist who will assess the patient's conditions. If a patient is diagnosed with the disorder, the sleep medicine specialist can recommend they return to the dentist to receive treatment.
Treatment options for sleep apnoea vary depending on the severity of the disorder. An individual with mild to moderate sleep apnoea may need to make behavioral changes such as altering the sleeping position, losing weight, or quitting smoking, as well as wearing a dental appliance during sleep.
A dental appliance for sleep apnoea, which looks similar to an athletic mouth guard, repositions the jaw and tongue to improve airflow. Like any appliance they do require some adjustment and a commitment on the part of the patient, but they are typically as easy to wear as most retainers or other removable dental appliances.
Treatment for severe cases of sleep apnoea requires more aggressive management, which may include the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) system—a device that delivers air through a small mask and applies constant pressure to keep the airway open—or surgery. However a dental appliance can still be very useful in these more severe cases especially if the patient cannot tolerate CPAP.
Because sleep apnoea can be a silent condition, it can go undiagnosed for many years. People with sleep apnoea usually do not remember waking up during the night.
Indications of the problem may include:
- Morning headaches
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Irritability and impaired mental or emotional functioning
- Lack of energy
- Excessive snoring, choking, or gasping during sleep
- Waking with a dry mouth or sore throat
- High blood pressure
The team at Evolve Dental Healing is highly trained in dental sleep medicine and the treatment of sleep apnoea and sleep breathing disorders. If you think you or your partner has sleep apnoea or snoring issues call us today to book an appointment with our highly qualified team. 07 37201811