Dental sleep medicine is a specialised field of dental practice that deals with the use of oral appliance therapy to treat sleeping disorders, including sleep apnea and snoring. Oral appliance therapy (OAT) is an effective treatment option for snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common condition where you have pauses in your breathing (apnea) or excessively shallow breathing (hypopnea) while you sleep. Approximately one in three Singaporeans suffers from moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is more common in men but it can occur in women too, especially during and after menopause. OSA is a chronic condition that occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax during sleep, allowing soft tissue to collapse and block the airway. As a result, repeated breathing pauses occur which often reduce your oxygen level leading to brief awakenings that disturb your sleep. Having excess body weight, narrow airway or misaligned jaw all increase the risk of OSA.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea vs. Snoring
Snoring does not equate to sleep apnea. It is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea, although not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.
How Do I Know If I have Sleep Apnea?
During the day :
- Morning headaches
- Poor concentration
- Daytime sleepiness
- Mood changes
- Lack of energy
- Waking up to dry throat or aching jaw
During the night :
- Loud snoring
- Choking for air when sleeping
- Habitual mouth breathing
- Grinding of teeth
Is Treating OSA Important?
Your sleep impacts every aspect of your health and daily life hence treating OSA is incredibly important. If left untreated, OSA often causes excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue, as well as morning headaches and memory loss. OSA is also a threat to your safety as it increases your risk of drowsy driving and workplace accidents. Untreated OSA raises your risk for serious health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, chronic acid reflux and erectile dysfunction.
- Changes in lifestyle – behavioral modification is a subspecialty within the field of sleep medicine which focuses on how thoughts, behaviors and emotions cause or maintain problems with sleep.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) – The purpose of a CPAP machine is to keep your airway open. The machine filters air through a mask that funnels a constant stream of air creating enough pressure to maintain an open airway and maintain proper oxygen levels.
- Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) – Oral Appliances Therapy maintain an open airway by repositioning the jaw forward. The appliances are worn in the mouth alike wearing an orthodontic retainer or a mouthguard.
- Surgical options – For this option, the upper airway is examined with nasal endoscopy performed by an ENT specialist. The specialist will identify the area that contributes to upper airway obstruction during sleep. This will allow the surgery to be tailored for that particular patient’s problem.
How Can Dentists Help?
Dentists work closely with physicians to treat snoring and sleep apnea. If you have above symptoms of sleep apnea or suffer severe teeth grinding, visit Le MinT’S Dental for a complete clinical evaluation to see if you are suffering from sleep apnea. We will be able to diagnose data from the sleep test and propose a suitable treatment.