Sleep apnea (sometimes called obstructive sleep apnea or OSA) is a chronic condition that causes multiple interruptions in breathing during sleep, sometimes interrupting breathing dozens of times a night. These interruptions can be so brief, a person with apnea may not realize they have the condition until an exam reveals signs of OSA. Other times, apnea can cause issues like snoring, choking and gasping for breath during sleep. Apnea occurs when the soft tissues at the back of the throat relax and descend into the airway, partially or completely blocking the normal flow of air. OSA is more common among people who are overweight and older men and women, and it’s also more common in men.
Sleep apnea has been associated with increased risks of heart attack, heart disease, stroke and obesity. Because it interferes with normal, deep sleep, patients who have apnea frequently feel drowsy throughout the day and may feel unrested even when just waking up. Apnea can also cause problems with focusing and concentration, and increased drowsiness when driving or operating machinery can increase the risk of serious accidents.
Patients who have symptoms like snoring, gasping during sleep or daytime drowsiness can be tested for apnea during simple, noninvasive sleep studies. Some studies are performed in a lab and some can be performed at home in the patient’s own bed using remote devices.
Sleep apnea therapy uses a special dental appliance that’s worn during sleep. The appliance gently shifts the jaw forward so the airway remains open and breathing interruptions are prevented. At Texas Dental, we use the state-of-the-art Somnodent MAS sleep apnea appliance, a comfortable, compact appliance that’s adjusted specifically for the patient’s needs for optimal results. Sleep apnea therapy can help reduce or eliminate apnea so patients can enjoy more restful sleep and prevent serious medical issues from developing.