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daytime sleepiness caused by sleep apnea

Do You Snore?

Do you become sleepy during the day or drowsy when driving? It may be time to ask your doctor about sleep apnea.

As part of their comprehensive dental examination, Dr. Wood, Dr. Spooner and Dr. Mills also screen their patients for signs and symptoms related to overall health such as snoring, TMJ (jaw joint) pain, teeth clenching and grinding. They may recommend further evaluation for dental treatment, such as a nightguard to help alleviate jaw pain from teeth grinding during sleep, or, in the case of chronic snoring, they may refer you to a physician to evaluate your airway and sleep breathing patterns to rule out obstructive sleep apnea.

sleeping with normal airway versus obstructed airway

Sleep Apnea

Over 30 million U.S. adults suffer from sleep apnea. This condition causes the patient to stop breathing during sleep, sometimes at multiple times during the night. (American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine).

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

When we sleep, the soft tissue in our throat relaxes and sags. If the tissue sags too much, it can actually partially block the airway and cause a rattling sound when we breathe, or snoring.

If the airway becomes fully blocked, breathing stops until the body responds and awakens in response to the lack of air, causing the patient to choke and gasp as they try to breathe. This harmful cycle is known as sleep apnea.

Not only does sleep apnea deprive the body of necessary oxygen, it does not allow the body's systems and organs to get proper rest. This can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including morning headaches and neck and shoulder pain, and increase the risk of serious conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. The lack of restful sleep also interferes with the ability to focus and can cause daytime sleepiness or dozing off while sitting still or driving. Drowsy driving, especially in teens, is a leading cause of automobile accidents in the U.S.

What is the Treatment for Sleep Apnea?

A diagnosis of sleep apnea is made by a sleep physician. The doctor will test the patient with a recorder while they sleep to determine if any blockage occurs. The standard treatment for sleep apnea is the use of a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure) with a mask that is worn during sleep to provide a constant source of air and help keep the airway open. For patients that are unable to tolerate the CPAP system, oral snoring appliances can sometimes provide some relief.

If you have problems with chronic snoring or day time sleepiness, ask your physician about sleep apnea.

Our dentists and team at Wood, Spooner & Mills General and Cosmetic Dentistry of Vestavia Hills are also happy to assist you with a referral to a sleep physician, so don't hesitate to Contact Us.