Sleep apnea is a disorder in which the sufferer stops breathing during sleep. This interruption in the breathing pattern is due to the full or partial collapse of the airways. Our office has found that lifestyle changes like diet, exercise and weight loss can decrease your risk of sleep apnea, but it is generally a chronic condition. The condition can be spurred obesity of a larger neck size. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep apnea affects more than 18 million Americans.
Sleep apnea can often go undiagnosed for many years. Its symptoms are often attributed to other causes. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, talk to Dr. Whyte about a sleep test. Ask a partner or loved one to observe you while you sleep — breathing cessation is often a telltale sign of sleep apnea and should be treated right away.
Sleep apnea is a very serious condition because it causes pauses in your breathing as you sleep. Left untreated, the lack of oxygen to your organs can cause a wide range of issues.
First, you need to be diagnosed with sleep apnea in order to move forward with treatment. To do this, you must schedule a consultation with a health care professional who specializes in sleep medicine. Dr. Whyte has extensive training on treating sleep apnea and can set you up with a home sleep study. The results of the study are what will be used to determine if treatment is necessary.
Already been diagnosed by a health care professional? Great. You can still come see Dr. Whyte for treatment. Many general physicians likely will want to put you on a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine as the one and only method of treatment for your sleep apnea. CPAP machines work — they prohibit your airways from collapsing — but many people find them uncomfortable to sleep with or otherwise difficult to get used to.
As dental health care providers, we have a greater range of treatment options. Instead of a CPAP machine (or in addition to, potentially), we can prescribe a mouthguard to be worn at night. A mouthguard designed to treat sleep apnea holds your jaw in a way that discourages the collapse of your airways during sleep. Patients oftentimes find that a mouthguard of this sort is much easier to get used to than a large CPAP mask and air pressure.
However, treating sleep apnea in this manner is not for everyone. Depending on your situation, the oral appliance can work very effectively, or it may need some additional help from a CPAP machine. The only way to determine which treatment options are right for you is to consult with a doctor. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Whyte, please call our office at 757-903-2527. You can also use our online form. Let us help you breathe easy.