Sleep Apnea is one of the most undiagnosed medical conditions. For this reason, if you have symptoms it can be very beneficial to have a sleep study performed. For instance, if you have sleep apnea but don’t know you have it, you can’t start feeling better until it gets diagnosed.
Dr. Hedrick is professionally trained to perform sleep studies and it’s a service we offer at Longmont Dental Loft. Best of all, there are many advantages of having a dentist perform this test rather than going to a traditional sleep institute.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that affects breathing during sleep. In fact, apnea is a Greek word that means without breath.
There are three types of sleep apnea and the most common form is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It’s a condition where muscles relax during sleep causing soft tissue in the throat to collapse, therefore blocking the airway. When this happens, there are complete pauses in breathing that last at least 10 seconds.
According to the American Academy of Sleep medicine about 80 to 90 percent of adults have OSA and are undiagnosed. Therefore, if you have symptoms of sleep apnea it’s very beneficial to get tested.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms
There are many signs and symptoms of OSA. Typically snoring is one of the most common symptoms, but keep in mind it’s possible to snore and not have sleep apnea.
The below symptoms are can be a sign of having sleep apnea. Of course, they can also be signs of other medical conditions. Only a sleep study can tell if you have sleep apnea.
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- Headaches after waking up in the morning
- High blood pressure
- High fatigue during the day
- Inflamed gum tissue
- Scalloped tongue (because of pushing your tongue into your teeth to open the airway while sleeping)
- Waking up at night and gasping for air
- Waking up with dry mouth or sore throat
How Do I Stop Snoring?
When most people think of sleep apnea they tend to think of snoring. This is for a good reason as most people that have obstructive sleep apnea do snore. Of course, not everybody that snores has sleep apnea. For this reason, it’s important to get a sleep apnea test if snoring is interfering with your sleep. If sleep apnea is causing your snoring there are several treatment options available.
Sleep Apnea Risk Factors
- Age: Although OSA can occur with people of all ages, it’s most common for middle aged men and women that are post-menopausal
- Gender: Men are more likely to have OSA.
- Genetics: People with a family history of OSA
- Body weight: People that are overweight
- Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of OSA
Why is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?
Not only can sleep apnea negatively impact your sleep, but it can also cause other oral health issues. For example, it can cause you to grind your teeth at night which can cause teeth wear. In fact, it can even be more serious and cause issues in the rest of your body. For example, undiagnosed sleep apnea can cause the onset of other diseases such as diabetes or heart disease. And these medical conditions can even reduce your lifespan.
Why See a Dentist for a Sleep Study?
When it comes to testing sleep apnea there are two major professionals that can conduct testing: sleep centers and dentists. If you see a dentist for a sleep study, you will have the following advantages:
- Sleep at home: Not only is sleeping at home more comforting, but it also makes the sleep study results more accurate as you’re getting testing in your home as opposed to an unfamiliar setting.
- Cost: Traditional Sleep centers have huge overhead. They have large complex equipment that is expensive to purchase. Luckily due to technological advances testing equipment can be much smaller and more cost effective. The equipment that dentists use for sleep studies is very accurate and much more cost effective.
If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea there are three main treatment options. This includes two types of sleep devices plus surgery. The method used generally depends on the severity of sleep apnea.
This equipment is what most people think of when they think of sleep apnea treatment. It stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and it’s primarily used to treat moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea. CPAP’s are extremely effective at treating sleep apnea and are considered the gold standard.
However, they have a lot of disadvantages which include being uncomfortable and bulky. Therefore, compliance is often subpar with CPAP’s.
Oral sleep device
These devices look like retainers and it’s the form of treatment that we treat patients with at Longmont Dental Loft. They are used to treat mild to moderate forms of sleep apnea. And if you snore due to sleep apnea this device should eliminate your snoring.
These are extremely comfortable and easy to travel with. Due to how comfortable and convenient they are, the compliance is typically much higher than when people use a CPAP.
Mandibular Advancement Device
The most common type of sleep appliance is called a Mandibular Advancement Device, also known as a mandible. It’s only worn at night while sleeping. It forces the lower jaw (mandible) forward to maintain an open upper airway.
There are several types of mandibular advancement devices. At the lower end, they can be purchased from pharmacies. These are not custom made and are the least effective method. At the high end there are custom dental mandibular advancement devices. Dentists or other sleep specialists make these devices and since they’re custom tailored they offer a terrific fit. And of course if the fit isn’t perfect the dentist can adjust them.
Surgery is a rarely used treatment option. It would be done at a last resort.
Sleep Study Process
We will provide you with a monitor that is worn around the chest, a nasal cannula, as well as a pulse oximeter. This will measure both your breathing and oxygen levels. You will be using this at home during the sleep study.
Sleep Apnea Test
The testing will take place over 1-2 nights. It’s a very simple process and is not uncomfortable.
After the equipment is returned to our office, we will upload the files to a physician. Although we’re trained to administer the tests and treat sleep apnea, only a physician can diagnose sleep apnea. The results will include an AHI. This stands for Apnea Hypopnea Index. Based on the AHI the severity of sleep apnea is determined.
According to Harvard Sleep Medicine the AHI ranges are categorized as:
What Forms of Sleep Apnea can Dentists Treat
Dentists can treat mild to moderate sleep obstructive sleep apnea with a sleep appliance. However, if you have severe sleep apnea then we will have to you refer you to a sleep center for treatment.
How Long Will It Take for an Oral Appliance to Work?
Sleep devices are very effective at opening the air passage and there should be noticeable results on the first night of wearing it. For example, if you have sleep apnea and snore loudly, the sleep device should help with your snoring on the first night.
What Does the Oral Sleep Device Feel Like?
It can feel a little odd at first, but after a few nights you’ll get used to it. In fact, after a week you may not even realize you’re wearing it at night.
How will my Life Improve with a Sleep Device?
If you have sleep apnea, being treated with a mandibular advancement device will help you sleep better and feel better during the day. As a result, your quality of life can drastically improve. Of course, good compliance is key to achieving great results.
Why Get a Sleep Study at Our Longmont, CO Office?
Dr. Hedrick is well trained in performing sleep studies and has helped many patients treat sleep apnea. In fact, she has even fitted herself with a sleep device with successful results.
As previously mentioned, by going to a dentist for the sleep study, you will be able to have the test done in the comfort of your home at a much more affordable price than if you would go to a sleep center.
Finally, if you get diagnosed with mild to moderate sleep apnea, Dr. Hedrick can order a custom sleep appliance that will treat your sleep apnea and help you feel better. Contact Longmont Dental Loft at 303-772-6333 to learn more about how we can help you.