Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a potentially life threatening condition. OSA causes the sufferer to cease breathing for brief moments during the night.
When a person sleeps,all muscles relax including those holding the airway open. When the airway begins to collapse (That collapse is characterized by a sound we call snoring.), less air enters the lungs resulting in a decrease in oxygen and an increase of carbon dioxide in the body. The body responds by arousing the victim from sleep. Not enough to be awake, but enough to destroy sleep quality. During that response the person’s body literally goes into fight or flight mode. Adrenalin pumps throughout the body. Heart rate and breathing effort and rate increase. The person stirs in bed and often grinds their teeth. This is all in an effort to break through the obstruction. The whole response causes tremendous stress on the heart. In a person with severe OSA this scenario occurs more than 30 times an hour!
Why is OSA a health threat?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea and the associated arousals rob us of good quality sleep. More important than quality sleep is the damage OSA does inside our arteries. The disruption of oxygen/carbon dioxide balance during an arousal, accompanied by the surge of adrenalin, causes inflammation throughout our bodies. The result over years of untreated OSA is a high risk for heart attack and stroke. One study based at the University of Wisconsin found that a person with untreated OSA with an AHI of 20 (AHI describes the number of arousals per hour.) has a 60% survival rate in 18 years! (How badly do you want to spend time with your grandchildren?!)
What are the signs of OSA?
Snoring on any level is a sign of some airway obstruction. The worse the snore,the worse the obstruction. A cardinal sign of OSA is observed apnea. That means that the victim appears to totally stop breathing. (The breathing effort continues, but there is no air moving into the lungs. This can be very alarming for the observing sleep partner, since an apneac event can go on for a minute or more. By definition, if the apnea continues for 10 seconds or moreit is a serious event.) Other signs of OSA are waking unrefreshed, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, acid reflux,morning headache and high blood pressure.
How Can OSA Be Treated?
At Sleep Well Dental we offer an alternative to the more widely used and cumbersome CPAP. It is an oral appliance that takes the form of a mouth guard. It is custom fitted..Upper and lower mouth guards are connected by an adjustable connector that can be set to the optimum position for treating each individual. The appliance is thin and small so that it doesn’t take critical tongue space. It must be perfectly fitted and adjusted by a dentist specifically trained in the use of these devices. The device works by gently holding the lower jaw forward. By doing so the tongue and associated muscles are held forward thus relieving the potential for airway collapse. An oral appliance is suitable for those patients with mild and moderate OSA (and a lesser form called upper airway resistance syndrome or UARS) and for those who have tried and failed with CPAP.