- Snore like a trucker?
- Snort, choke or gasp for air when you sleep?
- Breathe through your mouth?
- Grind your teeth at night?
- Wake up exhausted?
- Can’t concentrate during the day?
- Keep nodding off?
- Feel irritable?
- Have a partner complaining you’re keeping them awake?
If you answered ‘yes’ to several of the above, you could have sleep apnea.
Dentists, snoring and sleep apnea – the link
When he was a dental student, Dr David Kerr worked in a sleep clinic so he has a long history in dental sleep medicine.
These days, in our Aspley practice, he sees first hand how snoring or bad sleep can mask sleep apnea.
“Mostly, patients come to us because they’ve been told they snore and if they don’t do something about it, the show’s over!” says Dr Kerr. “Patients who snore don’t know they may have sleep apnea.”
What exactly is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common yet serious disorder where you stop breathing during your sleep – from 10 seconds or longer each time.
Your oxygen levels drop and you wake up. This stop/start disruption to your breathing process can repeat many times an hour.
It happens because there’s an obstruction in your upper airway.
The muscles in your throat relax, causing the airway to close up. Because there’s not enough volume for the air to move in and out of the airway, it causes the back of the throat to vibrate – the snoring noise.
There are 3 types of sleep apnea
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – absence of airflow but there’s continued respiratory effort; most common; ranges from mild to severe
- Central – absence of both airflow and respiratory effort; less common
- Mixed – combination between obstructive and central
A sleep study can determine which type you suffer from.
Up to one in 15 Australians suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – a potentially life-threating disorder.
8 risks of untreated sleep apnea
When you stop/start breathing again and again during your sleep, it can reduce blood flow to your brain and cause serious long-term health issues – some life threatening. This hidden killer is on the rise and recognised as a global epidemic.
Consequences of OSA and not getting a good night’s sleep:
- Coronary artery disease
- Congestive heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Motor vehicle accidents – are you falling asleep at the traffic lights?
- Workplace injuries – unable to function well during the day or do your job properly?
How to get tested for OSA
Not everyone knows that your dentist can play a critical role in identifying and treating this common sleep disorder.
If you suspect you or your partner suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, we can talk to your GP and start the ball rolling to help you get diagnosed.
You may be referred to a sleep clinic for a sleep study. This test is usually done in a hospital environment where you’re hooked up with monitoring equipment while you sleep.
Other than putting a name to your condition, it’s also beneficial to be diagnosed as it means you can talk to your health insurance company about any possible rebates on treatment for sleep apnea.
What are the treatment options?
- Lifestyle changes – being overweight, effects of alcohol, poor sleeping habits
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure – a CPAP machine is a mask worn during sleep to help you breathe more easily
- Specialist, custom-made oral appliance – called a mandibular advancement splint
While a CPAP machine is considered the most effective treatment for OSA, Dr Kerr says 65% of his patients can’t, or won’t, wear the mask.
“If they’ve already been diagnosed with sleep apnea, they may have tried wearing a CPAP machine and no longer want to because it’s too uncomfortable and dries out their mouth. That’s when they come to see us about a dental device like Oventus.
“Working with sleep physicians, we can treat people very effectively with these devices.”
Why put up with snoring any longer?
Dr David Kerr is one of the few practitioners on Brisbane’s northside who’s an Oventus Trained Clinician.
SNORING AND SLEEP APNEA FREE SEMINAR
In June 2017 we held a free information seminar about dental options for sufferers of snoring and sleep apnea.
If you would like a copy of the information pack given out at this seminar, call Today’s Dentistry on 07 3263 2677