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Sleep Apnea Therapy

How Dentists Help You Achieve Better Sleep

A man sleeping at his desk.

Many people don’t realize that dentists don’t only focus on tooth and gum health. They’re also paying attention to how your many complex oral structures may interfere with your daily life. In the case of sleep apnea, these oral structures can easily affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep. If you aren’t familiar with this condition or its symptoms, it’s worth giving this page a closer read. You just might determine that sleep apnea therapy in Charlottesville could change your life for the better. Give our office a call to schedule an appointment with one of our dental experts!

What is Sleep Apnea?

A man yawning in his car while holding coffee.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that prevents people from obtaining proper amounts of sleep throughout the night. This condition comes in three different forms, but the most common form is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and is caused by a physical blockage in the mouth. Blockages could be the tongue, soft or hard palate, or other oral structures that prevent proper airflow. As a result of these blockages, breathing is interrupted for about 10 to 20 seconds at a time, triggering an emergency response or “apnea” in individuals.

While every patient is different, apneas can happen dozens or even hundreds of times a night, making it impossible to achieve the deep sleep necessary to feeling refreshed the next day. Every sleep apnea case is unique, but all patients exhibit some combination of the following symptoms:

  • Loud snoring
  • Choking or gasping upon waking up
  • Chronic fatigue or drowsiness
  • Chronic headaches, dry mouth or sore throat upon waking
  • Unexplained mood swings or irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating or problems with short-term memory
  • Regular nighttime urination

Learn More About Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Common Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

A couple sleeping in bed.

There are many factors that increase your risk for sleep apnea, but the most common risk factors typically include:

  • Enlarged tongue or neck
  • Being obese or struggling with weight loss
  • Chronic snoring (snorers are more likely to develop sleep apnea later)
  • Teeth grinding

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

A sleep apnea oral appliance.

If you believe that you may have sleep apnea, it’s incredibly important to gain a diagnosis and treatment plan from our office. Those with sleep apnea are at higher risk of sleep deprivation, which in turn puts you at higher risk of developing systemic conditions like cardiovascular disease, depression, and chronic illness. Furthermore, those with sleep apnea are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel, resulting in a higher risk of traffic collisions, injury and even death.

Our dentists may recommend an oral appliance or a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to treat your sleep apnea. While the CPAP machine has been the gold standard for sleep apnea treatment for many years, many people struggle to use the device at first. In this case, an oral appliance can act as a fair alternative or allow you to use the CPAP machine on a lower setting. After speaking with one of our dentists, you’ll have a better understanding of your options and the treatments that best meet your needs.

Learn More About Sleep Treatment Options

Sleep Apnea FAQs

couple sleeping snoring

Even with all this information, if you’re still new to sleep apnea, you likely have a lot more questions about it. We want to help you understand this condition more fully and feel confident moving forward with treatment if you need it. That’s why we have provided the answers to some common questions about sleep apnea below.

Why is treating sleep apnea so important?

Although it may seem like a little thing, your quality of sleep can drastically affect your quality or even length of life. For example, when your breathing lapses, it causes a stress signal from your brain out to the rest of your body, triggering a spike in blood pressure. Over time, your body becomes acclimated to this, and the spikes become the norm instead of the exception. As a result, sleep apnea has been shown to cause high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attack or stroke. Taking control of your sleep apnea can reduce the stress on your heart, giving you a better chance of a long, healthy, and happy life.

What is the process of getting sleep apnea therapy?

Before getting treated for sleep apnea with us at Blue Ridge Dental, you need to be officially diagnosed with it. To do this, you will undergo a sleep study at a sleep center, which we can recommend for you. During this sleep study, your breathing and REM cycles will be monitored to detect whether you’re experiencing sleep apnea. After your diagnosis, you simply return to our office where our dental experts will match a treatment solution for your specific situation—either through a CPAP machine or an oral appliance or even both!

How do oral appliances work?

As the most common type, obstructive sleep apnea entails blockages to the airways. An oral appliance keeps the jaw in a slightly forward position, putting slight pressure on the throat muscles and preventing them from relaxing to the point where they interfere with your breathing. Many patients find that oral appliances are much more comfortable and much easier to adjust to than CPAP machines. It’s amazing how such a small appliance can make such a huge difference!

Why should I visit a dentist for sleep apnea therapy?

As professionals who are extremely familiar with facial and oral structures, our dentists have years of training and experience. Each participates in continuing education courses each year to hone their skills and learn the most innovative treatments and techniques to apply in our practice. Our patients receive the best available dental care for all their needs, including sleep apnea therapy.

At Blue Ridge Dental, we are committed to ensuring that you’re in control of your oral health. If you have more questions or concerns about sleep apnea therapy, we welcome the opportunity to discuss this condition and our treatments with you. Contact our office for a consultation today!