Sleep apnea is a highly undiagnosed condition that causes people to have one or more pauses in breathing, or shallow breathing during sleep because the airway collapses. This disorder leaves sufferers more susceptible to stroke, heart attack, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and diabetes. It also has been connected to cancer. Many people don’t realize they have sleep apnea. A family member typically is the first to notice it, due to the snoring associated with this condition, although snoring does not have to be present to have sleep apnea.
We offer a dental appliance that, for many, is a welcome alternative to a CPAP machine, a common sleep apnea treatment. The CPAP features a facial mask or nasal cannula worn at night that forces air into the throat to prevent the airway from collapsing when breathing in. This can feel cumbersome and uncomfortable.
Not everyone is comfortable with this device so instead, we offer a custom-made oral appliance similar to a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. It is worn only at night and it supports the jaw in a forward position to help keep your airway open while you sleep. Dr. Meleo and Dr. Ligums have had extensive training in the area of sleep apnea and dental sleep appliances.
Dr. Meleo and Dr. Ligums check for sleep apnea in their office by inspecting the nose, mouth and throat to see if large or excess tissue is present. In children, they check for enlarged tonsils. If they suspect an issue exists, they will explain your options.
For adults, we typically recommend a home-based, portable monitor sleep study to measure blood levels in oxygen, air movement through the nose, heart rate and chest movements that gauge the level of effort put into breathing during sleep. For children, we might recommend an evaluation with a pediatric ENT.
Advantages of an oral sleep apnea appliance
- More comfortable than CPAP
- Easy to wear
- Easy to care for
Causes of sleep apnea
- The tongue and throat muscles become too relaxed
- Large tongue and/or tonsils
- Small airway due to head and neck shape
- Normal aging process
Signs of sleep apnea
- Loud snoring and gasping for air during sleep
- Enlarged uvula or tissue in the roof of the mouth or back of the throat
- Sore throat or dry mouth upon awakening
- Headaches in the morning
- Daytime fatigue due to fitful sleep
- Quickly falling asleep during daytime inactivity
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty remembering things
- Personality changes, depression, mood swings or irritability
- Waking up often in the night to urinate
Sleep apnea is more common among men than women and although it can be diagnosed at any age, it becomes more common the older you get. Children also can be diagnosed with sleep apnea, and they may experience different signs:
- Angry or hostile behavior
- Poor performance in school
- Mouth breathing instead of breathing through the nose during the day