Sleep Apnea & Snoring
What is sleep
Millions of Americans suffer from
sleep apnea. People with this disorder take shallow breaths or literally
stop breathing for short periods of time while they are sleeping.
Although many people have sleep apnea, it is difficult to detect because
it only occurs during sleep. Usually a sleep study is performed to
diagnose the condition.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the
most common type of sleep apnea. This is when the airway is blocked or
collapses, resulting in breathing pauses or shallow breathing. The
pauses can range from seconds to minutes, and occur as many as 100 times
The soft palate,
velum, and tongue are structures of the mouth and throat that, during
normal sleep, will relax without obstructing the airway. In people with
OSA, these structures are either too large or relax too much, causing
the airway to narrow or become completely blocked. The lack of air
decreases blood oxygen levels, which in turn signals the brain to
disrupt the person's sleep; this is why the sleeper will often gasp
suddenly after a pause in breathing.
The constant disruptions in
breathing and sleep frequently cause sufferers to experience extreme
daytime fatigue. Sleep apnea is a serious condition, and has also
been associated with the following:
Although occasional snoring is usually harmless, chronic snoring can be
a sign of sleep apnea or other medical condition. The physical blockage
of air through the mouth and nose is what causes snoring, and the actual
sound comes from the vibration of the throat's walls. Things that
contribute to the obstruction of airflow include blocked nasal passages,
poor muscle tone in the structures of the mouth and throat, and excess
fat deposits around these structures.
cases, snoring can indicate upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS).
Unlike sleep apnea, people with UARS do not stop breathing at any point
or have decreased blood oxygenation. What they experience is a decreased
airflow when breathing in. The airway narrows and breathing becomes more
difficult, which is why the disorder is often accompanied by snoring.
People with UARS share some of the same symptoms as those with OSA, yet
will test negative with sleep testing. Specialized tests including
measuring changes in the pressure in the esophagus are usually needed to
How are sleep apnea and snoring treated?
Depending on the severity of the condition, there are a number of
methods used to treat snoring and sleep apnea. At the extreme end,
treatment can involve surgically altering the structures within the
mouth to get rid of the tissue that obstructs the airway during sleep.
Another treatment option is the CPAP machine. Using a mask to provide a
continuous flow of air, the machine essentially “forces” the structures
of the throat to keep the airway open during sleep.
least invasive treatment involves the use of oral appliances. These
small plastic devices are specially selected and designed by a dentist,
who works with your physician to ensure it meets your specific needs.
Depending on the patient's case, the appliance targets different oral structures.
For instance, some appliances move the jaw forward, some prevent the
tongue from obstructing the airway, and others combine both techniques.
Advantages of oral appliances include that they are:
- Small and easy to take with you
and take just a few weeks to get used to
After a few weeks to a few months of
monitoring and adjusting the appliance, your initial treatment is
complete. From that point on your dentist will periodically check to
make sure your oral appliance still suits your needs, though short-term
success will often predict long-lasting benefits. Do you live in or
around Fresno? Call us today to find our about our sedation options.
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