Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing stops periodically during sleep, as many as 20 to 30 times per hour. Each time you stop breathing in your sleep, the resulting lack of oxygen alerts your brain, which temporarily wakes you up to restart proper breathing. Since the time spent awake is so brief, you probably won’t remember it, and you may believe that you are getting a good night's sleep when, in fact, you are not.
Achieving deep sleep is prevented by the constant wake-sleep, wake-sleep cycle, resulting in:
- A constant drowsy feeling during the day
- Headaches upon waking in the morning
- Falling asleep unintentionally during the day
- A greater risk of high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke
- Complications with medication or surgery
Sleep apnea can be split into three categories. The most common is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and occurs due to a physical blockage, usually the collapsing of the soft tissue in the back of the throat. Less common is central sleep apnea (CSA), in which breathing stops because the muscles involved don't receive the proper signal from the brain. And some people suffer from "mixed" or "complex" sleep apnea, which is a combination of OSA and CSA.
Here at the Greensboro office of Dr. Sandra Fuller, we provide treatment for patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Fuller completed a dental sleep medicine residency at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and regularly participates in in the Spencer Study Club to keep updated and to study the latest in dental sleep medicine. She is also a member of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine.
Treatment of Sleep Apnea
To determine if you have sleep apnea, it’s best to setup a consultation with our Greensboro office. Depending on your results, Dr. Fuller may be able to treat your sleep apnea with something as simple as an oral appliance (mouthguard).
Oral appliances advance the mandible and soft tissues to prevent their collapse during sleep which obstructs the airway causing sleep apnea. Oral appliances are comfortable to wear and are very successful in mild to moderate sleep apnea cases. Additionally, basic treatment can be behavioral — for instance, you may be instructed to lose weight, stop smoking, or sleep on your side instead of on your back. For patients with mild to moderate OSA, we find that treatment with an oral appliance is 86% effective.
IF you suspect that your or someone in your family suffer from sleep apnea, contact our Greensboro dental practice, and we can refer you to a sleep apnea specialist if needed. A sleep study may be recommended to diagnose the precise extent of the problem. Depending on your situation, treatment may involve an oral device that we can custom-create for you.