What is sleep apnea?
While snoring is a common symptom, sleep apnea is much more serious than a simple snore. It is a sleep disorder in which breathing periodically starts and stops during the night, and it can have a serious impact on your health. Sleep apnea has been linked to diabetes, stroke, heart disease and more. You may have sleep apnea if you experience some of the following:
- Loud, recurring snoring
- Daytime drowsiness or fatigue
- Choking or gasping for air in your sleep
- Neck size greater than 17 inches (for a man)
- Neck size greater than 16 inches (for a woman)
- Stopped breathing during sleep
- Unexplained weight gain/trouble losing weight
- High blood pressure
- Heightened anxiety, depression or emotional issues
- Acid reflux
- History of stroke or heart attack
- Falling asleep during the day when activity is low
- Family history of sleep apnea
There are two types of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is caused by your brain sending incorrect signals to your muscles in your sleep—it usually requires the help of a sleep specialist. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea, and it can often be successfully treated in a dentist’s office.
Oral appliance therapy is a common and effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. There are more than 80 different sleep apnea oral devices on the market today. Similar in appearance to a double retainer, they are designed to either shift the lower jaw forward or retain the tongue to keep it from falling back into the throat. Oral appliances are typically worn at night and are custom fit to each patient.