How a dentist can help your sleep apnoea

Not so long ago, sleep was viewed as a weakness. People would throw around cavalier remarks like “oh, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” But in something of a seismic shift, everyone wants to sleep now. In fact, Ariana Huffington has made sleep her pet project.

Yet, imagine if quality sleep was something that eluded you. If sleep was something that was tantamount to danger for you.

Unfortunately, for the sufferers of sleep apnoea, that’s just how things pan out. As the Better Health Channel describe:

“Sleep apnoea occurs when the walls of the throat come together during sleep, blocking off the upper airway. Breathing stops for a period of time (generally between ten seconds and up to one minute) until the brain registers the lack of breathing or a drop in oxygen levels and sends a small wake-up call. The sleeper rouses slightly, opens the upper airway, typically snorts and gasps, then drifts back to sleep almost immediately.

In most cases, the person suffering from sleep apnoea doesn’t even realise they are waking up. This pattern can repeat itself hundreds of times every night, causing fragmented sleep. This leaves the person feeling unrefreshed in the morning, with excessive daytime sleepiness, poor daytime concentration and work performance, and fatigue. It’s estimated that about five per cent of Australians suffer from this sleep disorder, with around one in four men over the age of 30 years affected.”

Incidence

Interestingly, this is one area where nature has favoured females. The Australian Sleep Association report that 24% of middle aged-men suffer Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, as opposed to 9% of middle-aged females, with men also more likely to suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome, which is where excessive daytime sleepiness occurs.

Symptoms

Aside from intense fatigue, the Better Health Channel advise the symptoms of sleep apnoea can manifest in the following ways:

  • Daytime sleepiness, fatigue and tiredness;
  • Poor concentration;
  • Irritability and mood changes;
  • Impotence and reduced sex drive; and
  • Need to get up to toilet frequently at night.

Considering the potential severity of a sleep apnoea incident, it’s essential that you obtain the right treatment for this condition.

Treatment

Given the relationship between sleep apnoea, obesity and alcohol, lifestyle changes are one of the first means of addressing the condition. Doctors will also look at remedying other medical triggers (e.g. low production of thyroid and large tonsils).

Aside from this, medical teams will look at the use of a CPAP mask or a dental splint.

The Sleep Health Foundation explain that a CPAP mask comprises three components; an air pump and mask, which are joined by a tube. The idea is that “the pressure of the air keeps the throat open while you are asleep.” While the masks are designed with comfort in mind, some users find they simply cannot get used to them. In those instances, suffers of mild to moderate sleep apnoea may wish to look at an oral appliance from their dentist instead.

Essentially a dentist will customise a splint that you wear during sleep. This will be either a Mandibular Advancement Splint, a Mandibular Advancement Device or a Mandibular Repositioning Appliance. These splints work by pushing “your lower jaw forwards so that your throat opens up, reducing the risk that it will vibrate (snore) or obstruct.”

Benefits of dental splints for sleep apnoea

While there are no clear rules as to what will work for who, Sound Sleeper have observed that some:

“Suffer from some of the drawbacks of CPAP such as loud machinery, wearing a mask during sleep and general discomfort report by patients.

By design, dental appliances are non-invasive, removable, quiet and non-bulky. Unlike CPAP machines, dental appliances also allow free jaw movement, speaking, drinking and yawning while in use.

Many patients prefer MAD’s and their uptake is much higher than CPAP devices. Dental appliances are often a first choice for this with OSA and for those not comfortable with CPAP.”

Additionally, dental splints are painless and non-obstructive.

Conclusion

Sleep apnoea can be a confronting diagnosis. However, it is manageable with the appropriate treatment. Should a CPAP not be comfortable for you, we would urge you to visit us to conduct a sleep study and assess your suitability for a dental splint.

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