Patients who suffer from sleep apnea experience frequent loss of breath during sleep. Apnea is a word derived from a similar ancient Greek word that means breathless. To be considered an apnea event, the cessation of breathing should last for ten or more seconds. Shorter periods of breathlessness and shallow breathing events are referred to as hypopnea.
Sleep apnea is the second most common sleep disorder in the US, following the most common: insomnia. It effects about 20 million patients. There are two major forms of sleep apnea: central (CSA) and obstructive (OSA). CSA is not very common, but it is a more serious condition. It occurs when the brain fails to trigger the body to inhale and exhale. Immediate treatment is necessary for CSA as this can be a life threatening condition. The more common OSA occurs when a physical obstruction prevents patients from breathing during the night. The rarest form of sleep apnea is a combination of the two major causes, both OSA and CSA.
About 80% of sleep apnea sufferers remain undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed each year. To help patients get the treatment they need, we encourage them to familiarize themselves with the most common warning sings including:
Before we get started on your sleep apnea treatment plan, we need to be completely sure you are suffering from this disorder and determine what type of sleep apnea (CSA or OSA) you have. Before we recommend a sleep test, we’ll ask you to complete the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. This is a short questionnaire that allows us to gage your level of risk. If we determine you are likely a sleep apnea sufferer, we’ll schedule your consultation appointment to discuss your condition and make recommendations for your diagnosis and treatment planning. You can either complete an in-office or at-home sleep study, depending on your preference. If you would like to have an in-office study, we will work with a local sleep medicine clinic to arrange this service. Our skilled dentist and team can set you up with an at-home test.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea or this is our finding after your sleep test, we may recommend oral appliance therapy. These comfortable, custom appliances provide effective relief from symptoms of sleep apnea. In some cases, we may also recommend combining oral appliance therapy with a CPAP system to achieve the best results.
Many people think snoring is nothing more than a harmless bad habit. However, chronic snoring is often an early indicator of developing sleep apnea. Vocalizations like speaking and snoring are actually vibrations caused by the movement of air against soft tissues. Even a small impediment in the airway will impact breathing. This impediment at night time may lead to snoring, If it becomes more severe and is left untreated, snoring can lead to sleep apnea. Oral Appliance Therapy is a great treatment option for patients who snore, even if they aren’t diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Many patients who suffer from sleep apnea think that CPAP therapy is their only treatment option. In some very serious cases and for central sleep apnea sufferers, this may be the only nonsurgical option. Many patients who choose CPAP treatments are eventually diagnosed as being CPAP intolerant. This happens because the CPAP systems create noises and sensations that some patients have difficulty adapting to. If a patient uses CPAP consistently for at least two weeks without adjusting, they will likely be deemed intolerant. For those CPAP intolerant patients who suffer from the far more common obstructive sleep apnea, the dentist may offer a valid alternative – Oral Appliance Therapy. These custom crafted oral appliances are great options for patients who suffer from mild to moderate OSA, who experience loud, chronic snoring but who are not diagnosed with sleep apnea, and those patients who are CPAP intolerant. Oral appliances are shaped to move your jaw forward. This shift places pressure on throat muscles keeping the airway open and unobstructed during sleep. The appliances are compact and portable, making them the ideal choice for patients who travel frequently.
We are usually able to obtain some coverage for patients by process claims through medical insurance. This can add an extra layer of confusion when it comes to maximizing the benefits of insurance plans, but our team will be happy to take that stress off your hands. We frequently work with both medical and dental insurance providers as well as Medicare and Medicare Supplemental Insurances. Our knowledgeable team members will happily process and file claims to ensure you receive the maximum coverage. Please don’t hesitate to ask about insurance coverage. We’ll be happy to help.