Sleep Disorder Dentistry

Sleep apnea isn’t just a loud sound that gets wakes up your partner or forces you to sleep in another room. It’s potentially very dangerous. People have been know to hold their breath for over a minute while asleep and have this repeated dozen if not 100 times a night. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common is usually cause by blockage of the airway at the back of the throat. In central sleep apnea there is no blockage, but the brain fails to send a signal to the muscles to breath. Mixed apnea is a combination of the two.

Whatever the cause, sleep apnea results in a poor quality of sleep and can cause fatigue, poor healing from injuries, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotency and headaches.

Risk factors include obesity, a short, thick neck, jaw abnormalities (underbite), being over 40, and being male. Snoring is a uniform symptom in sleep apnea, but just because you snore, does not mean that you have sleep apnea.

The most common non-surgical treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device which keeps the airway open by applying a flow of pressurized air to keep the throat open. However some patients do not tolerate the CPAP due to restriction in body movements or claustrophobic feelings or back pain. Oral Appliance Therapy may be tolerated better. Dr. Howard uses a custom made dental appliances such as the Thornton Anterior Pos TAP 3 Elite or the Silent night SL which hold the jaw slightly forward and open’s the airway for unobstructed breathing.

Snoring is caused by the vibration as the air passes over the edge of the soft palate and the uvula. Narrowing of the airway passage between the soft palate and the back of the tongue increases airway resistance and triggers the vibration. Snoring is primarily a disruptive problem for the sleeping partner if it is unrelated to sleep apnea.

Dr. Howard utilizes a number of Oral Appliance Therapy appliances to help patients with sleep apnea and snoring who can not tolerate CPAP appliances or do not want to undergo surgery. Many patients find success with comfort and freedom of movement with less body restriction and with an absence of claustrophobic feelings.