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Sleep Apnea

At Elite Smiles Dental, we’re dedicate to providing the best quality care for our patients to aid in a restful night’s sleep and a healthy lifestyle. Our Appleton, WI dentists, Dr. Dale Scharine and Dr. Alissa Edwards, have special training to diagnose and treat sleep apnea and snoring.

If you are drowsy during the day with no explanation, or if you snore loudly or wake up breathless in the middle of the night, you may be one of more than 12 million Americans who are affected by sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing stops periodically during sleep, as many as 20-30 times per hour. Each time you stop breathing in your sleep, the resulting lack of oxygen alerts your brain, which temporarily wakes you up to restart proper breathing. Since the time spent awake is so brief, you probably won’t remember it, and you may think that you’re sleeping through the night, when in fact, you are not. If you have sleep apnea, the constant wake-sleep, wake-sleep cycle will prevent you from achieving deep sleep, and can result in:

  • Waking up at night short of breath
  • Snorting or choking sounds during the night (indicating a restart of breathing)
  • Headaches upon waking in the morning
  • Falling asleep unintentionally during the day
  • Extreme drowsiness throughout the day

Types of Sleep Apnea

The most common type of sleep apnea seen at Elite Smiles Dental is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It occurs due to a physical blockage, usually the collapsing of the soft tissue in the back of the throat. Depending on the severity, basic OSA treatment can be behavioral—for instance, patients are instructed to lose weight, stop smoking, or sleep on their sides instead of on their backs. Treatment may also consist of the placement of an oral device that is designed to help keep the airway open. By bringing the jaw forward, the device opens the airway, thereby discouraging snoring. Drs. Scharine and Edwards are experienced in sleep apnea appliances and can prescribe a fitted device and monitor its success with follow-up therapy.

Less common is central sleep apnea (CSA), in which breathing stops because the muscles involved don't receive the proper signal from the brain. A continuous positive airway pressure mask, known as a CPAP, is the most effective treatment for CSA. The mask is fitted over the mouth and forces oxygen through your throat while you sleep. The pressure holds the soft tissue and throat muscles open.

Sleep Apnea Risk Factors

Anyone—regardless of gender or age—can suffer from sleep apnea, however, there are certain factors that increase the occurrence of sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in males than females, and more common in older adults (40+) than younger adults and children. Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, drinking, use of sedatives or tranquilizers, and family history.

Central sleep apnea strikes most often in people with heart disorders, neuromuscular disorders, strokes, or brain tumors. It is also more common in males.

Sleep Apnea Complications

Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical problem and if left untreated can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart failure and stroke. The ongoing state of fatigue caused by sleep apnea can lead to problems at work or school, as well as danger when driving or operating heavy machinery. Sleep apnea can also cause complications with medication or surgery; sedation by anesthesia can be risky, as can lying flat in bed after an operation. If you know or suspect you suffer from sleep apnea, let your family doctor know before taking prescribed medication or having surgery.

During your consultation at Elite Smiles Dental, Dr. Scharine or Dr. Edwards will discuss how sleep apnea affects your health, the types of testing that are necessary to achieve a diagnosis, and the types of appliances that can be worn as an alternative to or in conjunction with CPAP. Our financial coordinator will also go over your health insurance coverage and determine what your coverage will be.

If you or a loved one suffer from sleep apnea, a simple exam and consultation at our Appleton, WI dental office can be the start of a lifetime of restful sleep. Schedule an appointment today!

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