The office of:

Paul E. Thompson, DMD

Brandon R. Clements, DMD

2487 Demere Road, Suite 100
St. Simons Island, GA 31522
(912) 638-9921 Office
(912) 638-4121 Fax
info@ssidental.com 

Sleep2a

Sleep Apnea & Snoring

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Better Sleep - Better Life

Sleep apnea is a medical condition that requires a physician who is trained in sleep medicine to properly diagnose. It involves an interruption of breathing during sleep. Did you know there are different types of apneas? Do you know which one affects you? Unless you have obtained a thorough diagnosis, you may be treating your condition improperly.

Central Apneas

Central apneas have at their source an interruption in the signal your brain sends to your body telling it to continue breathing during sleep.  Central apneas accompany the other type of apnea (obstructive) or they may occur on their own.

Obstructive Apneas

Obstructive apneas are caused by a constriction of the airway by soft tissue. Maintaining a patent airway is the key to overcoming an obstructive apnea and there are several medical devices designed to achieve this. Dentistry may also provide solutions to certain cases of obstructive sleep apnea. Before persuing treatment, each patient must first be properly diagnosed by having a sleep study performed and interpreted.

Obstructive Sleep Apneas (OSA) begins as sleep sets in and the muscles of the jaw and pharynx begin to relax. When this occurs, the airway leading from the mouth to the lungs may begin to become obstructed. As this happens, one commonly begins to snore. Snoring is simply the sound made by forcing air through a narrow opening and the vibration of the soft tissue that accompanies the changes in air velocity and pressure. Snoring itself is not a dangerous medical condition, but rather a symptom of possible problems that are of greater concern and, most decidedly, an inconvenience to those around the snoring person. If the narrowing of the airway continues to the point that the airway becomes completely closed off or obstructed, that is when an apnea is deemed to have occurred.

Hypopneas

Hypopneas are similar to apneas but don’t quite rise to the level of complete obstruction. Hypopneas are heavily constricted episodes of ┬ábreathing and are accompanied by decreased oxygen passing into the lungs. Apneas and hypopneas are alike in this regard. When combined, they give us an index that can help the physician score how severe your apnea is. This score measures the severity of the problems and is commonly used to direct therapy.

The Danger?

What is the danger of interrupted breathing? It really comes down to the availability of oxygen in the body. As an apnea occurs, a sleep study will coincidently measure the oxygen saturation of the blood. If you obstruct breathing, oxygen fails to make it deep into the lungs. This leads to lower oxygen levels in the blood which in turn affects the organs that need oxygen to operate, mainly the heart and brain. Your body detects the decrease in oxygen and as a survival mechanism, reflexively goes through what is known as an arousal, which is basically when your brain signals to your body that due to low oxygen you must pull yourself out of deep stages of sleep in order to free up the breathing process. There are many results of this phenomenon, including a lack of deep, nourishing sleep and a release of any chemicals into the body that in turn affect many of the body’s systems.

The Cycle

The cycle of sleep, hypopnea, apnea, arousal and back to sleep can accurately be described as the ‘wheel of death’ as constantly remaining in this endless cycle will deprive a person of deep sleep and stress the organs that critically rely on oxygen for proper function. Untreated sleep apnea carries with it drastic effects, not the least of which are increased mortalities and morbidities.

Signs of this cycle may include snoring, poor sleep habits, daytime sleepiness and frequent nighttime urination. Patients may, to a certain degree, self-diagnose by simply taking a look at their symptoms. True diagnosis only comes by way of a sleep study and interpretation by a qualified physician.

Get Diagnosed and Treated

Our office offers a take-home sleep study that helps us screen for OSA. While it is a helpful tool for us, unless interpreted by a physician, it is of little use. We work with a sleep lab locally that can either take our tests and diagnose you or perform a study in a sleep lab that will truly diagnose your condition. Once a diagnosis is made, your physician can choose to work with us in the fabrication, delivery and titration of an oral device that may help your apnea.

Simple snorting differs from apnea in that it is a problem of convenience, not a medical condition per se. If you suffer from snoring or your partner suffers from snoring, an oral device is a simple, predictable and very proven way of eliminating the problem. Oral devices that are touted as being as good as conventional CPAP treatment are misleading at best and quite possibly dangerous if in fact you are not treating the underlying apnea effectively. CPAP therapy will continue to be the gold standard for treating apnea but in reality there are many patients who do not comply with CPAP therapy. For patients that have simple snoring or intolerance to CPAP therapy, an oral device may be an excellent choice.

Our office fabricates several different types of oral appliances for snoring and sleep apnea. If you are interested in learning more about whether an oral appliance may be right for you and which one to choose, we would love to discuss this critically importance health issue with you one on one.