What is sleep apnea? Dentist in Dana Point, CA explains the condition and treatment options
Posted By Dr. Mark Cruz
Though you may have heard of sleep apnea, you probably still have some questions. Dr. Mark Cruz in Dana Point, CA is an expert in airway focused dentistry. He explains what sleep apnea is, why you should take the diagnosis seriously, and how a qualified dentist can help.
Normal breathing and sleep
Deep, restful sleep is essential to overall wellness, and healthy breathing patterns are essential to sleep. Normal breathing entails taking air in through the nose. Air travels through nasal passages to the pharynx, epiglottis, larynx, and trachea—lower portions of the airway shared with the mouth—before entering the lungs.
There, in a system of bronchial tubes, smaller passages, and tiny sacs, oxygen from air you inhale passes into the blood. Oxygenated blood from the lungs is carried to the heart, which pumps it throughout the body, sustaining the cells of tissues and organs. As these cells use the oxygen to metabolize nourishment from foods you eat into energy, carbon dioxide is produced as a waste product. Blood absorbs it and channels it back to the lungs, where it is removed from the body with each exhale.
This process is absolutely vital to every part of the body and every function the body performs.
The airway must be open and clear for optimal respiration. This is especially important during sleep. Because breathing is critical to survival, you cannot reach deep stages of sleep when breathing is impaired—it’s the body’s way of keeping you from suffocating.
Hormones are part of our endocrine system. These chemical messengers trek through the bloodstream, telling organs and tissues what they should be doing. Hormones regulate the systems that keep your body functioning properly, such as:
Endocrine glands only secrete hormones during deep sleep cycles. That’s why sleep apnea is so destructive to whole body health.
Dana Point, CA dentist explains, “What is sleep apnea?”
The normal process of respiration is interrupted in a person who has sleep apnea, potentially dozens of times each hour. These individuals (and often their bedmates) rarely get the quality sleep they need to feel genuinely good.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of this condition, affecting about 22 million people in this country. Though not everyone with OSA snores, loud, chronic snoring is a warning sign. If you have OSA, as you begin to fall asleep, your mouth and neck relax. Pressure from soft tissues narrows the airway, causing the palate to vibrate loudly.
Then, the airway becomes so restricted that breathing gets light and shallow, reducing flow into the lungs and thus oxygen levels in the blood. Finally, the airway may become entirely blocked. The brain senses dangerously low oxygen intake and responds with a rush of adrenalin to jolt you awake. After a gasp or snort, and possibly a bathroom break, you reposition and the OSA cycle begins again.
It is easy to see why apneics look haggard and feel drowsy through the day. There are also strong links between sleep apnea and grave health issues such as obesity, depression, hypertension, and diabetes.
Is CPAP the solution?
The short answer is, it can be. However, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine holds the lower respiratory passages open with flow produced by a bedside compressor, delivered through a face mask. The method is effective in treating symptoms of sleep apnea, but unfortunately many people find it invasive and uncomfortable in the bedroom.
Oral appliance therapy can be an alternative to CPAP for some patients. This device looks something like an orthodontic retainer. It holds the mouth slightly open and positions the lower jaw forward while depressing the tongue, accomplishing results similar to CPAP without the machine. Yet it is still a temporary fix that addresses symptoms only.
Dr. Cruz collaborates with your physician on the initial diagnosis of OSA. He then utilizes advanced screening techniques to assess the severity of the condition with pinpoint accuracy. Using airway focused dental principles, he works to resolve the underlying cause of your sleep disordered breathing. With a variety of non-surgical options to correct craniofacial dysfunction, healthy breathing is restored with lasting results. In addition, many patients experience relief of TMJ discomfort and improvement in facial appearance.
Each night without sleep impacts your health. Please don’t wait – call (949) 661-1006 to schedule a sleep apnea consultation with Dr. Cruz at his Dana Point, CA office.