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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Dentists Offer Sleep Apnea Treatments

Jul 28, 2013 12:44PM ● By Alan Steiner, DMD

Most people probably hope to pass from this world peacefully, in their sleep. But no one wants to die during sleep from untreated obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which the flow of air to the lungs is blocked either partially or completely by something — and often, that something is the tongue. People with sleep apnea may stop breathing for 10 seconds or more at least five times per hour, and that stoppage can — and does — sometimes result in death.

People who have obstructive sleep apnea often are not even aware that they have it: Many times it’s a spouse or another family member who witnesses the symptoms. Snoring heavily soon after falling asleep is common in those with the disorder. The snoring is then interrupted by a long silent period during which there is no breathing. This is followed by a loud snort and gasp, as the person attempts to breath, with the pattern repeating. Many people who suffer from this disorder wake up tired in the morning and feel sleepy or drowsy throughout the day. They may also be short-tempered, impatient and irritable, falling asleep while reading or watching television.

Since most people see their dentists several times a year, there is no better place than the dentist’s office to have sleep apnea diagnosed and treated, since the position of the tongue, often a culprit, is limited by the palate and the teeth. In traditional orthodontics, where teeth are removed and the arch is retracted, the tongue is often forced back into the pharyngeal space, closing off the airway. But the development of the dental arches — the position of the teeth in the jawbones of the skull — should all be perfected vertically, horizontally and anteriorly before considering removing any teeth. That’s one reason that progressive dental offices should be on the front lines in the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. Orthodontics, temporal mandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) and cosmetic dental procedures all have the profound ability to correct problems associated with the disorder.

The most serious issues resulting from sleep apnea are heart attack and stroke. The disorder can also cause or worsen problems with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, angina, depression and more. The good news, however, is that once sleep apnea is properly diagnosed, there are a number of successful
treatments:

  • A continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine, if used properly, can provide positive air pressure, opening up the airway while sleeping.
  • Dental sleep appliances can also provide more tongue space and open up the airway.
  • Orthodontics and neuromuscular reconstruction can provide a more physiological approach to treating this devastating disease.
  • Many times, however, a combination of these treatments is the formula that works — and saves lives.

For more information, contact Drs. Steiner, Fine and Kwiatkowski of Aesthetic Family Dentistry, P.A., 35 West Main Street, Suite 208, in Denville by visiting AestheticFamilyDentistry.com.

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