Sleep Apnea Treatment in Whitehouse

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious condition that often flies under the radar in the public consciousness. Most of us have heard of sleep apnea, but are fairly certain its symptoms and risks do not apply to us.

That is completely understandable, because adults who are afflicted with this condition are not awake to witness its effects. Family and friends may tease a sufferer about snoring, but sleep apnea seems like something that happens to other people.

Unseen Risks

This attitude can have dangerous consequences. Sleep apnea can lead to stroke, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, high blood pressure, loss of memory, sexual dysfunction, chronic fatigue and depression. This happens because sleep apnea deprives the body of a normal, sufficient flow of oxygen at night. Breathing is interrupted throughout sleep, sometimes for 10 seconds or more at a time.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Anomalies that affect breathing structures cause sleep apnea, and many of these are governed by your DNA. Throat muscles that do not maintain an open air passage through the night are a primary cause. Other inherited traits that can increase the likelihood of sleep apnea include a large tongue or tonsils, a pronounced overbite, a recessed chin and a small upper airway.

Your genes may not be entirely to blame. Obese individuals are at higher risk for developing sleep apnea. In fact, in many cases substantial weight loss, combined with regular exercise and other healthy habits, may significantly improve or eliminate sleep apnea entirely. Because smoking causes swelling of airways, quitting smoking can also have a big impact on the condition. Reducing alcohol consumption and changing your preferred position for sleeping can also lead to positive results.

Evaluation and Treatment

To gauge the extent of your sleep apnea, it is essential to do an evaluation of your sleep patterns. Although this type of evaluation can sometimes be done at home, most often a patient will need to spend the night at a special sleep observation center. There, medical professionals observe the cycles of sleep and evaluate breathing, heart rate, muscle activity and eye movement. They also monitor the amount of oxygen in the blood throughout the night.

For many patients, the solution for sleep apnea will be nighttime use of a CPAP machine. CPAP is an abbreviation for “continuous positive airway pressure,” and the bedside unit does exactly that — it maintains a stream of air that supports breathing during sleep. Patients wear a mask that covers the mouth and nose.

CPAP is extremely effective, but the size and inconvenience of the unit often leads patients to abandon the treatment. That is why the experienced dentists of Dental Health Associates provide a range of options for sleep apnea sufferers. These include dental appliances that optimize breathing by keeping the tongue and jaw in a proper position through the night. Another option is a nasal expiratory positive airway pressure device that fits over the nose.

Surgical treatments are a last resort, such as procedures that restructure the upper airway. An advanced surgical option involves the implantation of a device that stimulates the hypoglossal nerve whenever a drop in oxygen is detected. This nerve in turn affects movement and placement of the tongue.

To learn more about sleep apnea, or to schedule an appointment, contact Dental Health Associates of Whitehouse today.