Breathing Easier: Making
If snoring, nighttime clenching, or labored breathing are keeping you
or someone you know from getting a good night’s sleep, there may be something
wrong with their breathing function during sleep. When we sleep, muscles
necessary for breathing relax much more than during waking hours. In most
cases, this process causes no problems. However for some, when muscles relax
excessively or airway obstruction is present, breathing is compromised and
sleep is restless.To compensate some people’s jaw muscles actually tighten to try to improve the airway.
What is sleep disordered breathing?
Sleep Disordered Breathing can affect both adults and children. In adults, the
airway loses its muscle tone during sleep, collapses in on itself, and as a
result oxygen is blocked from entering the lungs. In children, lack of oxygen
during sleep is generally caused by either enlarged tonsils or adenoids or a
malocclusion of the teeth and/or narrow jaw and nasal passages.
When the muscles of the throat and tongue relax, they begin to sag and obstruct
the airway and make breathing labored and noisy. As pressure to breathe builds,
muscles of the diaphragm and chest work harder. If the airway walls collapse,
breathing will be completely blocked. When breathing is blocked, snoring will
be followed by a brief lapse in breathing until the sleeper gasps for air and
awakens. Most often, the awakening is so brief that the sleeper does not
remember it. Some people compensate for their physiological changes by tightening their jaw muscles to reposition the mandible, and of a self-induced CPR.
When these interruptions of breathing occur, oxygen in the blood drops causing a
spike in blood pressure. Over time, these episodes can lead to serious medical
issues such as hypertension, stroke, gastroesophageal reflex and
cardiopulmonary problems. Basically your body’s physiological systems are not
getting the rest they need to recover and prepare for the next day due to the
lack of oxygen.
Determining the source of the problem
At Contemporary Family
Dentistry, we work closely with general physicians, ENTs, pulmonologists,
cardiologists, and other sleep specialists to conduct a complete medical
screening and assessment and develop a treatment plan. Using CAT Scan and
Acoustic Reflection Technology – a painless and non-invasive technology that
uses sound waves to produce an image of airways – we will determine the
location and cause of the obstruction, narrowing or collapsing.
Treatment through dentistry
For many patients, Sleep Disordered Breathing does not require surgery
and may be treated successfully through dentistry. Often lifestyle changes such
as diet, exercise and side sleeping coupled with sleep dentistry will make
significant improvements. If the Sleep Disordered Breathing is due to a
malformation in the orofacial area, we can provide acoustic reflection and CAT
scan technology and oral appliance therapy to correct structural problems that
result in airway narrowing or collapse.
There are several ways to
treat snoring and sleep apnea. The most common is with a device called a CPAP
machine. CPAP stand for continuous positive air pressure. It is usually applied
through a tube to a mask that covers the nose. The air pressure that is
generated splints the structures in the back of the throat holding the airway
open during sleep.
Treatment can also be accomplished with surgery to the soft palate,
uvula (that thing that hangs down from the roof of your mouth), and tongue to
eliminate the tissue that collapses during sleep. More complex surgery can
reposition the anatomic structure of your mouth and facial bones but this is
done only in extreme cases.
Oral appliances that treat snoring and obstructive sleep apnea are
small plastic devices, worn in the mouth, similar to orthodontic retainers or
sports mouthguards. Oral appliance therapy involves the selection, design,
fitting and use of a specially designed oral appliance that, when worn during
sleep, maintains an opened, unobstructed airway in the throat.
Currently, there are over 40 different types of oral appliance
available. Oral appliances may be used alone or in combination with other means
of treating OSA, including general health and weight management, surgery or
nasal continuous air pressure (CPAP).