Sleep apnea is an extremely common condition that can create serious risks to an individual’s health and affect their day-to-day life, as well. Fortunately, our experienced dentist, Brian Vence, DDS, is extensively experienced with treatment for sleep apnea and snoring and offers advanced options that can help you sleep peacefully through the night and dramatically reduce life-threatening risks to your health. Dr. Vence is committed to helping patients address the root causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea for effective, long-term solutions.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

The most common form of sleep apnea, known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), is characterized by excessive relaxation of muscles and tissues in oral cavities. When the tongue and soft tissues in the throat and nasal passages become too relaxed during sleep, they can narrow or even completely block the airways. This can result in loud snoring or multiple breathing pauses that last for several seconds – in some cases, people who have sleep apnea may stop breathing dozens of times per hour. Untreated sleep apnea can produce both immediate and long-term health risks. It can also create symptoms that affect one’s livelihood, causing fatigue and many other effects that hamper one’s ability to simply get through the day. Many individuals who suffer the effects of sleep apnea may not even be aware that they have the condition, which makes it important for those who suspect they may be experiencing sleep apnea – as well as their loved ones – to be able to recognize the symptoms.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

The causes of sleep apnea depend on which type of the condition is present. There are three major types of sleep apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the most common type of the condition, is characterized by the collapse of oral tissues and muscles, which creates an air blockage. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is not as frequently diagnosed; however, like OSA, this type of sleep apnea can also cause life-threatening breathing pauses. CSA occurs when the muscles that control breathing temporarily stop getting important signals from the brain. Patients who have been affected by a brain infection, stroke, cervical spine condition, or other disorders involving the brain stem may be more at risk for CSA. The third type of sleep apnea is called Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome. This form of the condition is a combination of OSA and CSA. Also known as “mixed” sleep apnea, Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome is often diagnosed after a patient has already been treated with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP) for OSA but has not shown significant improvement, which may indicate that Central Sleep Apnea could be present, as well.

Obesity is known to be a major factor in patients who have obstructive sleep apnea. In many cases, individuals who are obese have an excess amount of fat in the neck, tonsils, and tongue. This can ultimately create more pressure on the air passages, leading to narrowed airways or complete blockages. An individual’s unique orofacial anatomy can also be a significant contributor to the development of sleep apnea – irregularities in oral structures can lead to blocked airways while sleeping. Other potential factors that can cause sleep apnea include genetics and exposure to tobacco smoke. While all of these concerns are known to be possible causes of sleep apnea, it is important to note that this condition can strike anyone at virtually any age, regardless of whether they have any of the associative risk factors.

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea can be the cause of numerous debilitating symptoms that affect both your sleeping habits and your day-to-day life. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Breathing pauses while sleeping
  • Snoring
  • Waking up sharply with a feeling like you are gasping or choking
  • Feeling the need to get up many times during the night to go to the bathroom
  • Headache
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Insomnia
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of concentration/trouble focusing
  • Weight gain
  • Irritability

Sleep Apnea

What Are the Risks of Sleep Apnea?

In addition to the many symptoms that can be caused by sleep apnea, the condition can also significantly increase risks to your life and general health. Some of the risks of sleep apnea include:

  • Sudden cardiac death
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Gastric Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Car or work-related accident

Sleep Apnea Risks

What Are the Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea?

Our practice can treat sleep apnea with state-of-the-art procedures designed to effectively resolve symptoms, reduce health risks, and help you attain a more restful night’s sleep. Many of our treatments are designed to provide a long-term remedy for sleep apnea rather than a temporary solution that treats only the symptoms and not the cause. Dr. Vence takes an interdisciplinary approach to many of our sleep apnea procedures, recommending surgically-facilitated orthodontic therapy to correct structural irregularities that may be contributing to the symptoms of sleep apnea. In some cases, oral appliance therapy may be an ideal option. A customized oral appliance, designed for the best possible fit and comfort, can help patients maintain a normal flow of air through breathing passages while they sleep. These options can be good alternatives to CPAP machines for the right patient; however, they are a “continuous therapy” that treats the symptoms of sleep apnea rather than the direct cause. This is why Dr. Vence’s “total wellness” approach—utilizing the interdisciplinary orthodontic method to improve the positioning of oral structures and enable improved airflow during sleep—is often his preferred treatment. With that in mind, the best treatment option will ultimately depend on each patient’s unique needs.

The interdisciplinary approach can also benefit patients who suffer from TMJ Disorder, a common condition involving the temporomandibular joint between the upper and lower jaws. TMJ Disorder, also referred to as TMD, can cause a range of symptoms that can have a deteriorating effect on one’s livelihood. These symptoms include headache, jaw pain, numbness in the arms and fingers, pain in the back, neck, or shoulders, and many others. As with sleep apnea conditions, Dr. Vence believes interdisciplinary care can often provide effective relief for those with TMD.

If you or a loved one suffers from sleep apnea, please don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation at our practice. Our dentist can treat this dangerous condition with solutions that can truly save your life. For more information, please contact us today. We will be happy to answer any questions and address any concerns you may have.