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Do you find yourself waking up during the because you are snoring? Do you wake up in the morning feeling as tired as you did when you went to bed? If so, then you might be one of the over 18 million adults in the United States who struggle with a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. What’s even scarier is that a lot of these cases aren’t reported, so folks are experiencing the damaging effects of sleep apnea without getting the help they need to stay healthy.

Obstructive sleep apnea is where your throat muscles relax while you sleep and interrupt or cause normal breathing to stop. This can happen because the airway can become blocked by the tongue, or the airway collapses, making the airflow come to a halt. If you should be fortunate enough to wake up, you’ll obviously start breathing again, but if you just snort and fall back to sleep, you may not even realize it’s happening to you.

With central sleep apnea, your brain somehow doesn’t activate your breathing muscles in your sleep. Sometimes this sleep disorder is a result of both central and obstructive sleep apnea combined. Either way, if this constant, interrupted breathing pattern happens throughout the night, over time, it can really do a number on your health.

If you have sleep apnea and aren’t getting treatment, you are more susceptible to daytime drowsiness and car accidents, obesity, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, headaches, poor memory and concentration, mood disorders like anxiety and irritability. It can also result in insulin resistance, bringing you that much closer to developing Type 2 diabetes. If you have consistent drops in your blood oxygen levels over time, not only is your quality of life and performance impacted, but you are also courting premature death.

If you aren’t sure you have this disorder, but you have any of the following, conditions, you may be at higher risk for incurring sleep apnea.

Risks for Sleep Apnea

-Obesity is, unfortunately, the main contributor to developing sleep apnea. This is because excess weight can add to the tissues located in and around the airways. This is even more pronounced if you also have a thick neck. But that’s not all; if you have sleep apnea and you put on more weight, your apnea condition will likely end up getting even worse.

-Your medications can make you susceptible to sleep apnea and snoring, especially if one of the side effects is muscle relaxation, or you take a sleep medicine. These make it harder for your brain to rouse you out of sleep. And if you are taking painkillers like morphine or codeine, you might experience respiratory suppression that interferes with your ability to breathe and can lead to respiratory arrest.

-Health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure are both associated with sleep apnea. The good news is, treating your sleep apnea does lower your blood pressure.

-How you sleep can compound your sleep apnea. For example, sleeping on your back can exacerbate the disorder, while sleeping on your side improves it. As you can see, how you sleep determines how your weight affects the airways, like the position where the tongue falls.

-Drinking alcohol can increase your chances of developing sleep apnea because it acts as a muscle relaxer which in turn affects the position of the tongue.

-Smoking creates breathing problems and raises your risk of ending up with sleep apnea. Chronic smoking irritates the tissues in your throat, as well as the upper airway, uvula, tongue and soft palate because it causes swelling in those tissues. As if that weren’t enough chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is caused by smoking and can even worsen asthma symptoms.

-Your own body abnormalities can also raise your risk of developing breathing problems while you sleep. Specifically, having an enlarged tonsil or adenoids, a deviated septum, or an airway that for some reason is smaller than it should be.

Treatments for sleep apnea vary, depending on the severity of your condition. Nonsurgical treatments include losing weight, taking medications, wearing a dental appliance, or using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Surgical treatment can involve surgery on the nasal passage, palate, tongue, upper airway stimulation therapy, maxillo-mandibular advancement or tracheostomy.

Oral Appliance Therapy

There are over 100 different kinds of oral appliances which are approved by the FDA to be used for the treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. You simply wear the appliance over your teeth like a mouth guard while you sleep. The purpose of oral appliances is to bring the lower jaw forward and hold it there so that your airway stays open and so the tongue and muscles in the upper airway don’t end up collapsing or blocking your airway as you sleep. Oral appliances are great for those who have mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, but they can also be used if you have severe sleep apnea and just can’t tolerate wearing a CPAP mask.

Oral appliance therapy is a nice solution because it’s an effective, non-invasive treatment that fits easily into your normal lifestyle. Since the appliance can be taken anywhere, if you travel, it’s much easier than transporting a CPAP machine. Oral appliances are easy to wear, are relatively comfortable, and are quiet, unlike a noisy machine.

At Gentle Dental Arts, our trained team understands that sleep dentistry is a highly specialized branch of dental care. Our treatment options are designed specifically to treat snoring, sleep apnea, or other sleep disorder. If you suffer from any of these conditions, sleep dentistry in Orem, Utah, might be just what you need to achieve the quality sleep your body craves. If you think you may have a sleep disorder we invite you to give us a call at 801-788-4922. The sooner you call, the sooner Dr. Alexander Larsen and our team can help you get a good night’s sleep!