What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition in which a person stops breathing for several seconds during the sleeping hours. These frequent pauses in breathing can cause a decrease in oxygen levels as well as a disruption of the normal sleep patterns. Patients who suffer from sleep apnea are prevented from enjoying the deepest level of sleep, necessary for good health.

Sleep apnea is often a difficult disorder to diagnose, since there are few tests designed to identify the condition. Most patients are also unaware that their sleep pattern has been repeatedly disrupted throughout the night. If your bed partner has noticed that your breathing seems to pause frequently during sleep, or if you have noticed excessive sleepiness during the daytime hours, speak to your Charlottesville dental professional immediately.

Sleep apnea is known to increase your risk for a variety of health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart attack. The condition may also lead to obesity and irregular heartbeat. Though sleep apnea has been linked to obesity, it is not limited to obese patients. The shape and size of the facial and airway structures can be a familial trait, predisposing certain patients to the disorder.

Fortunately, an oral surgeon can assist you in diagnosing and treating your condition. Your medical history will be reviewed and a thorough head and neck examination will be performed to identify anatomical details that may be contributing to the condition. Your family members and bed partner may be interviewed for a description of your sleep patterns.

Proper treatment can include any combination of weight loss, surgery, and sleep appliances. Of course, it is always prudent to begin with the most conservative treatment options, such as lifestyle changes and changes in sleep positions. Oral appliances designed to properly position the jaw and tongue can also be helpful. A CPAP device, which forces oxygenated air through the airways as you sleep, has enabled millions of patients to enjoy a good night’s sleep. When necessary, surgical procedures that reshape the soft palate or the base of the tongue can eliminate the condition as well.

If you feel that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, plan a dental visit to our office as soon as possible.

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