Harry Albers, DDS, FAGD
1100 Sonoma Ave. Ste E
Santa Rosa, CA 95405
What is Preventive Care?
Caring for Your Teeth
Kicking the Habit
Mouth and Night Guards
Antibiotics with Treatment
Periodontal (gum) Treatment
Treating Cracked Teeth
Crowns/Caps: Each Step
Bonded Dental Bridges
Sleep apnea (AP-ne-ah) is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.
Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They often occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.
Sleep apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep. You often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep when your breathing pauses or becomes shallow.
This results in poor sleep quality that makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of excessive daytime sleepiness.
Most people who have sleep apnea don't know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member and/or bed partner may first notice the signs of sleep apnea.
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. This most often means that the airway has collapsed or is blocked during sleep. The blockage may cause shallow breathing or breathing pauses.
When you try to breathe, any air that squeezes past the blockage can cause loud snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone. For example, small children may have enlarged tonsil tissues in their throats, which can lead to obstructive sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea is a less common type of sleep apnea. This disorder happens if the area of your brain that controls your breathing doesn't send the correct signals to your breathing muscles. As a result, you'll make no effort to breathe for brief periods.
Central sleep apnea can occur in anyone. However, it's more common in people who have certain medical conditions or use certain medicines.
Central sleep apnea often occurs with obstructive sleep apnea, but it can occur alone. Snoring doesn't typically happen with central sleep apnea.
ENT specialists are not the only ones to treat snoring. Your dentist can help too, and may suggest a special type of mouthpiece.
Mouthpiece devices -- also known as dental appliances, or mandibular advancement splints -- have been effective for many snorers, including those suffering from mild or moderate obstructive sleep apnea. They are usually small plastic devices worn in the mouth during sleep to prevent the soft throat tissues from collapsing and obstructing the airway. They do this by bringing your lower jaw forward and/or by lifting your soft palate. Some devices also stop the tongue from falling back over your windpipe.
Your dentist will usually be the one to fit these special appliances to meet your individual condition. Typically they will take a mold of your mouth and then either send off for a custom mouthpiece or fashion it themselves.
The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine has recently identified oral appliances as an effective treatment. A 2001 study in Switzerland found oral appliances effective in treating sleep apnea. Side effects were only "mildly disturbing": mucosal dryness (86% of patients), tooth discomfort (59%), and excessive salivation (55%). A similar study in the UK of 25 heavy snorers found that use of "mandibular advancement appliances," i.e., mouthpieces, was effective in reducing snoring loudness for 84 per cent of the subjects while 76 per cent said they were snoring on fewer nights per week.