Sleep Apnea, Snoring, & Nighttime Problems
Sleep apnea happens when an obstruction inside the mouth and/or throat blocks the passage of breathed air for a significant amount of time, lasting even minutes. Often, the tongue is the obstructive culprit; other times the fatty folds of tissue in the throat or palate can contribute to the problem. If this blockage happens repeatedly, the blood-oxygen level in the brain drops and causes the brain to partially rouse itself out of deep sleep, leaving the sleeper feeling exhausted in spite of sleeping enough hours. This is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Obstructive Sleep Apnea has been linked to a number of serious health risks including high blood pressure and stroke. Snoring is often a symptom of OSA.
Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) requires a sleep study by a physician sleep specialist. Some patients with OSA wear a C-PAP breathing-assist machine at night to send forced air through their mouth, but others can get the relief they need by using a nighttime appliance similar to a mouth guard. This appliance repositions the jaw so that the tongue does not obstruct the airway. Up to 75% of patients with obstructive sleep apnea can be successfully treated for OSA with a nightguard appliance. Your dentist and physician can work together to help you find the most appropriate treatment for this condition.
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Snoring is caused by a partial obstruction while mouth-breathing during sleep. This could be due to the tongue or other tissue folds within the mouth or throat. If the obstruction is significant, the sleeper's breathing rhythm is disrupted as described above. If the obstruction is minor, the sleeper continues to breathe in a normal rhythm, even while making noise. This type of snoring can often be treated successfully with one of several devices similar to the one described above. This nighttime appliance is fitted by the dentist to be worn while sleeping, and gives relief to both the sleeper and his/her spouse.
If you snore when sleeping, we can run some preliminary tests here in our office to help you determine if you should see a sleep specialist about a more serious problem, and/or which nighttime appliance might be a solution to your snoring.
Grinding of the Teeth/Clenching
Grinding of the teeth (or forceful clenching) while awake or asleep can cause wear/chipping of the teeth when they contact each other and can also cause damage to muscles and joints. Other symptoms include facial pain, headaches and joint pain. While grinding and clenching does happen during stressful situations while awake, this action at night is harder to detect and control. If facial pain or headaches are obvious upon waking, and nighttime clenching and grinding is suspected, there are several types of acrylic mouthguards that can be fitted by your dentist. These are different than the snore guards and prevent additional damage to your mouth and can reduce these painful symptoms that can hinder daytime effectiveness.