May 5, 2015 More than 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, many of them unaware of it and therefore not receiving treatment. Are you one of them? What is sleep apnea? More than 5 percent of Americans have undiagnosed sleep apnea and are living with the complications of a treatable condition. Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening disorder that causes a pause in breath or shallow breathing during sleep, and it occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway. More serious than snoring alone, an individual with sleep apnea may experience pauses in breathing five to 30 times an hour, or even more, during sleep. Consequently, patients suffer from a reduction in blood oxygen saturation, and when the blood-oxygen level drops low enough, the body momentarily awakens. This can happen hundreds of times a night, with the patient not even realizing it, and obviously leaves the individual groggy in the morning. Beyond low levels of energy the following day, or an irritated spouse, the disruptions to sleep can lead to memory loss, headaches, irritability, impaired concentration, depression, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, arrhythmia and decreased sex drive. Individuals are three times as likely to have heart disease, at 25 percent greater risk for heart attack and more likely to experience a stroke. Poor sleep, like that resulting from sleep apnea, is even associated with lower life expectancy. In fact, sleeping five hours or less per night can increase mortality risk by 15 percent. What are the signs of sleep apnea? It’s often a sleeping partner who notices the signs of sleep apnea, particularly the characteristic loud snoring, pauses in breathing or waking up gasping or choking. Other signs of sleep apnea include: Fatigue Insomnia Daytime sleepiness and/or falling asleep during the day Unrefreshed sleep The first step in diagnosing sleep apnea is often a sleep study, which charts breathing, snoring levels and blood oxygen saturation. Before embarking on a sleep study, it’s helpful for patients to keep a sleep diary, noting things like: The time you went to bed and the time you woke up How many times you woke up during the night Whether you felt rested If you took naps or felt sleepy during the day If your partner heard you snoring, stop breathing or gasp for breath during the night How can my dentist treat sleep apnea? Trained sleep disorder dentists, like the team at Caffaratti Dental Group, can diagnose and help treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Instead of going to a sleep center for an evaluation, our patients can opt for our take-home sleep test device, which charts the same things an overnight sleep study would. Because it’s worn in the patient’s normal environment, it provides a better overall profile of the patient’s typical sleep patterns and sleep health. Its small size also means the patient can sleep in any position. Our team can also evaluate a traditional sleep study. With your general physician, we will help you understand the results, provide a diagnosis and determine the best solutions for you to get better quality sleep and improve your sleep health. Treatment options can include CPAP machines, surgery or behavioral changes like weight loss or avoiding alcohol and tobacco. However, oral appliance therapy can also treat mild to moderate sleep apnea. Similar to a mouthguard or retainer, customized oral appliances prevent the collapse of throat tissue and the tongue, allowing a greater intake of oxygen. In essence, oral appliances remodel the upper airway and move the lower jaw forward into a more natural position, increasing the size of the airway and dramatically improving the patient’s ability to breathe. The benefits of oral appliance therapy include: Oral appliances are comfortable and easy to wear, which isn’t always the case with CPAP machines Their small size makes it easy to travel with, so you can continue to get good sleep away from home Treatment is non-invasive, unlike surgical options There are a variety of oral appliances available, and based on your diagnosis, we can determine the most effective option for you. Patients who have mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea whose condition wouldn’t respond to behavioral changes or who can’t tolerate a CPAP are ideal candidates for oral appliance therapy. We provide ongoing care to ensure the appliance is both comfortable to wear and effectively treating your Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Our goal is to address the underlying cause of your sleep apnea and successfully reduce your likelihood of related complications like heart disease, depression, stroke and obesity. Your sleep apnea solution If you, or your partner, are concerned you could have sleep apnea, Caffaratti Dental Group can help with your diagnosis and treatment. Call today at 775-358-1555 to schedule a FREE consultation to discuss how we can improve your sleep health and your overall health.