Obstructive sleep apnea is often difficult to diagnose because many people don’t realize that they have it. Their only symptoms may be a persistent feeling of tiredness throughout the day—but they don’t realize this chronic exhaustion is caused by the fact that they’re not breathing properly while they sleep.
Patients with sleep apnea often snore loudly and stop breathing during sleep because soft tissues narrow or block the airways. When the airway is obstructed, patients are jolted out of sleep; even though they have no memory of this occurring, it can happen dozens and even hundreds of times a night, which adds up to never feeling well-rested or restored.
Obstructive sleep apnea can have a snowball effect on a patient’s health. While it may start with feelings of tiredness, it can eventually lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack, and stroke. Weight gain, glaucoma, mood disorders, sexual dysfunction, and headaches have also been linked to sleep apnea. Chronic exhaustion prevents you from being an active participant in life; it makes it hard to focus on work and even leaves you at higher risk for car accidents.
There are several possible treatments for sleep apnea. One of these solutions is a night guard type appliance. These appliances can be used to reposition the lower jaw while you sleep, which prevents your tongue and soft tissues from blocking the airway. For some these appliances are more comfortable and easier to use than CPAP machines and because they’re non-invasive, they’re preferable to surgical treatment.
The most common sign of sleep apnea is waking up without feeling well-rested. This tiredness persists throughout the day. Another common symptom of sleep apnea is snoring—while you can’t hear yourself snoring when you sleep, you might wake up gasping or choking. You may notice that you nod off during the day, have trouble focusing, and that no amount of sleep ever seems to help you feel better.
A sleep apnea appliance can help many patients with mild sleep apnea. In addition, there are lifestyle changes that help as well, including losing weight, cutting down on alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking.
Gingivitis is a precursor to gum disease. It involves inflammation—your gums will be red, swollen, and may bleed when you brush. Once you have lost bone around your teeth, you have periodontitis. Treating gingivitis can prevent periodontitis.
Oral appliances and CPAP machines are treatments for sleep apnea, but not cures; once these devices are no longer used, sleep will again be disrupted. Lifestyle changes are the best cure for obstructive sleep apnea, but should these not work, surgery can also be a permanent solution.
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