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 affects about 20 million patients. 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. Dr. Drummond specializes in helping sleep apnea patients breathe comfortably so that they can get some rest.
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. This is the type of sleep apnea that we primarily treat. The rarest form of sleep apnea is a combination of the two major causes, both OSA and CSA; it’s often referred to as complex sleep apnea syndrome.
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.
Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with sleep apnea or simply have reason to think you might have the condition, you probably have some questions that need to be answered before you move forward with the treatment process. Learning more about sleep apnea makes it easier to manage your symptoms and avoid complications over the long term. Below are some questions that a lot of patients ask; let us know if you have additional concerns.
There are multiple possible causes for obstructive sleep apnea. Sometimes it’s a simple consequence of the size and positioning of your neck, jaw, tongue, and other tissues. Obesity is a particularly common risk factor, contributing to sleep apnea in up to 60% of cases. Also, if you drink alcohol before bed, the tissues in your throat are more likely to become relaxed and block the airway. Other risk factors include family history, cigarette smoking, sleeping on your back (which makes it more likely that tissues will collapse), and nasal congestion. If you have central sleep apnea, it’s most likely the result of a stroke or another medical condition.
You will be hooked up to special equipment while you sleep. This way, your brain activity, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and breathing patterns can be closely monitored all while you snooze. Such studies can be performed at a sleep center and overseen by a specialist, but an at-home sleep test is often more convenient, as it can be done in the comfort of your own bed, meaning you don’t have to worry about driving to a separate location. Once you have the results, an expert can look them over and determine your risk of sleep apnea based on the data.
Every case is unique, so the length of treatment is going to vary from case to case. If you get an oral appliance, you should plan on using it every night. You may have to get a new appliance every so often once the old one has become worn down. CPAP machines, when deemed necessary, are generally used for about 3 to 5 years. That said, if you don’t want sleep apnea therapy to last forever, then you need to focus on lifestyle changes that can reduce your symptoms. Losing weight, sleeping on your side instead of your back, and giving up drinking and smoking habits all make a significant difference in fighting sleep apnea.
While sleep apnea does lead to snoring most of the time, that doesn’t mean that all snoring is indicative of a sleep disorder. Generally speaking, sleep apnea snoring is very loud and occurs frequently. If your snoring is relatively quiet or only happens on occasion, then the root cause might lie elsewhere. Of course, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so call us right away if you have doubts about whether your snoring is a sign of a severe sleep issue.