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Sleep apnea is a prevalent condition that can have serious health implications if left untreated. In this guide, we’ll explore what obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is, its relationship with snoring, and the available treatment options, including oral appliance therapy.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when the tongue and soft palate collapse onto the back of the throat, blocking the upper airway. This leads to a cessation of airflow, causing oxygen levels to drop until the brain partially awakens the individual. The airway then reopens, often with a loud gasp, allowing airflow to resume. This cycle can happen multiple times during the night. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, OSA affects approximately 22 million Americans and can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, as well as an increased risk of heart problems, hypertension, strokes, and accidents.

The Connection Between Snoring and OSA

While snoring can be harmless, it may also be a symptom of OSA. Snoring occurs when the soft tissues of the upper airway vibrate as air passes through them. Proper diagnosis and treatment planning require a joint consultation with your dentist and physician. Your dentist will monitor your treatment and assess the response of your teeth and jaws.

Oral Appliance Therapy: A Viable Treatment Option

Oral appliances are custom-designed devices worn during sleep to treat snoring and OSA. These appliances resemble orthodontic retainers or sports mouthguards and work by:

  • Repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate, and uvula
  • Stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue
  • Increasing the muscle tone of the tongue

Advantages of Oral Appliance Therapy

Oral appliances offer several benefits:

  • They are comfortable and easy to wear.
  • They are small and convenient, making them ideal for travel.
  • The treatment is reversible and non-invasive.

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Cognitive Decline

Emerging research suggests that sleep apnea may accelerate memory loss and potentially contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. According to a study by New York University, sleep apnea may be contributing to cognitive decline as individuals age. During deep sleep, the brain eliminates toxins, a process disrupted by frequent awakenings caused by sleep apnea.

The Importance of Diagnosis and Treatment

Sleep apnea is prevalent among older adults, affecting up to 53% of men and 26% of women according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. Despite its prevalence, it often goes undiagnosed. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for mitigating health risks and improving quality of life.

If you suspect you or a loved one may be suffering from sleep apnea, consult with healthcare professionals for a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan. At our general dental practice, we offer oral appliance therapy as a treatment option for sleep apnea, providing a non-invasive solution to this serious condition. To learn more, give us a call today.

sleep apnea treatment

sleep apnea treatment