Maria Ambra, RDH
Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder in which cessation of breathing for 10 seconds or more occurs during sleep.
There are 3 types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: It is the most common form and occurs when the throat muscle relax.
- Central sleep apnea: It occurs when the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome: It occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Causes of obstructive sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax and the airway narrows and closes as you breathe in. This may lower the level of oxygen in the blood. The brain senses this inability to breathe and briefly interrupts the sleep so that the airway can reopen, snorting, choking or gasping sounds can be experienced and this pattern can repeat itself 5 to 30 times or more each hour, all night long. These disruptions impair the ability to reach the desired deep, restful phases of sleep.
Causes of central sleep apnea:
Central sleep apnea is a less common form of sleep apnea that occurs when your brain fails to transmit signals to your breathing muscles.
Sleep apnea can affect anyone, even children. But certain factors increase your risk of sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea
- Excess weight: Fat deposits around your upper airway may obstruct your breathing.
- A narrowed airway. Tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged and block the airway, particularly in children with sleep apnea
- Family history. If any family member suffers with sleep apnea, it may increase the risk to have it.
- Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers. These substances relax the muscles in your throat.
- Smoking. Smoking may increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.
Central sleep apnea
- Being older. Middle-aged and older people have a higher risk of central sleep apnea.
- Heart disorders. People with congestive heart failure are more at risk of central sleep apnea.
- Using narcotic pain medications. Opioid medications can increase the risk of central sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition that can cause:
- Daytime fatigue: It is impossible to have normal and restful sleep when repeated awakenings associated with sleep apnea occur
- High blood pressure or heart problems. Increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system can be cause by sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea
- Type 2 diabetes. People with sleep apnea are more likely to develop insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
- Sleep-deprived partners. Loud snoring can interrupt partners’ sleep and eventually compromise relationships.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea can also have adverse effects on a person’s oral and dental health.
Saliva is the mouth washes away food debris, neutralizes acids caused by bacteria. Sleep Apnea can dry out the mouth that can lead to oral bacterial infection, bad breath and other dental problems.
People who suffer from sleep apnea also have a tendency to grind their teeth while they sleep. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, can damage the enamel, weakens them and cause tooth decay.
When left untreated for an extended period, sleep apnea can dry out the sockets of your teeth. This, when coupled with teeth grinding, can loosen and cause tooth loss over time.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). It is a machine that delivers air pressure through a mask placed over the nose that will keep open the airway.
- Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP). They are small, single-use devices that placed over each nostril that allow air to move freely in and out.
- Oral appliances. They are designed to keep the throat open by bringing the jaw forward, which can sometimes relieve snoring and mild obstructive sleep apnea.
Several devices are available from treatments. It’s always recommended to talk with the physician to properly diagnosed and treat any sleep related disorder.
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