Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a nighttime breathing disorder of the upper airway. It affects the region from the tongue to the area behind your Adams apple. The condition is characterized by the “stopping of breathing” altogether because of a blockage of the airway from excess oral and upper throat tissues. Despite continued breathing efforts, oxygen is not reaching the lungs, causing the brain to arouse the person from sleep to obtain space for the air. These arousals can occur many times during sleep making the person feel tired in the morning. For those of you affected, this hypoxic state (cells receiving insufficient oxygen) may also occur during severe snoring due to increased airway resistance.
The sooner one can be definitively diagnosed by a sleep physician the better. According to the New England Journal of Medicine undiagnosed sleep disorder breathing (OSA) is prevalent among middle age men (24%) and women (9%). The consequences of OSA are numerous and include fatigue, nocturnal headaches, strokes and seizures, nocturnal coughing, choking, chest pain, heart attack, palpitations and hypertension. About three quarters of people who have had a stroke, also have OSA. Longstanding OSA or even heavy snoring has been linked to memory deficits, mood changes and brain damage. Without treatment OSA can shorten your life span 7-10 years.
Dentistry has a role in the diagnosis of sleep disordered breathing and has become an integral part of the treatment of snoring and OSA. Patients are screened by reviewing the medical history and during the clinical exams to identify signs and symptoms of the condition. Recently more scientific evidence is connecting temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder and grinding of the teeth during sleep (bruxism) to underlying sleep disorders, specifically sleep apnea. Some predisposing factors for coronary artery and cerebral vascular disease resemble those for OSA, for example an elevated body metabolic index (BMI).
Dr. Krause will screen and help treat patients with this serious medical condition. Our office may refer you to either your family physician or to a specialist in sleep medicine, who along with a sleep study can diagnose the severity of the condition. “Oral Appliance” therapy may be prescribed as treatment. This special oral appliance is designed to assist breathing by aiding in opening and maintaining an open airway during sleep. It acts to keep the jaws and attached tongue separated and in a forward position during sleep. Numerous research articles have cited the success of appliance therapy with and without other therapies.
Dr. Krause feels that his patients should be aware of the serious condition called sleep disordered breathing and how we can assist in helping you obtain the sleep that is so valuable for good health and maintenance of well-being. Keep in mind that snoring may be bad for you and your partner’s health and through collaboration with your dentist and physician solutions can be developed.
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