We are proud to say that we at Benassi Family Dentistry have taken many courses on sleep apnea and snoring and can now help you manage this medical condition. We would like to educate you on what sleep apnea is, what the signs and symptoms are and how we can treat it at our practice. We invite you to call the office and make an appointment to learn more about this exciting way to help improve your sleep and health.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea is a disorder where a person stops breathing during sleep. These pauses in breathing can last from a few seconds to minutes. These pauses in breathing can occur 30 or more times an hour in some cases. This phenomenon is caused by many factors. These factors include muscles in the throat relax more than normal. Large tongue or tonsils impair the opening of your airway, overweight or recent weight gain which can leave fat tissue along the walls of the windpipe which causes the opening to narrow and makes it harder to keep the airway open, and increasing age. As we get older we lose tone in our muscles and it becomes more likely that this will constrict the airway.

How do I know if I have sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is diagnosed by taking an overnight sleep test called a polysomnogram (PSG). The PSG is performed at a sleep lab. The PSG monitors biophysical changes that occur while we sleep by monitoring many body functions such as brain waves (EEG), eye movements (EOG), skeletal muscle activity (EMG), heart rhythms (ECG), respiratory airflow and pulse oximetry (oxygen levels in your blood stream) during sleep. It can also tell us what levels of sleep we are in during the night, how often we move or wake up during the night, and also what position we sleep.

What are the signs of sleep apnea?

There are many things that can signal to us that we may have sleep apnea. These are just indicators, but not a proven factor that a person has apnea. Some signs are: snoring, gasping for air when we sleep, significant daytime sleepiness or fatigue, waking up unrefreshed after sleep, morning or evening headaches, heartburn or a sour taste in your mouth at night, difficulty concentrating during the day, and personality changes. A large neck size can also be a sign. Men with a neck size of 17 and women with a neck size of 16 can be a warning sign. Also, a BMI (body mass index) of >30 could be an indicator of an increased likelihood of sleep apnea.

How is sleep apnea treated?

The first line of treatment for sleep apnea is the CPAP machine. The CPAP delivers compressed air through a mask that you sleep in during the night. It is prescribed once a diagnosis of sleep apnea is determined. Some people cannot tolerate the CPAP machine or choose to have another method of treatment. For these patients (mainly people diagnosed with mild to moderate sleep apnea), a custom fitted oral appliance is constructed.

How does an oral appliance work for sleep apnea?

The oral appliance works by repositioning the lower jaw and tongue during sleep. This will help stiffen the soft palate and support the airway, which tends to collapse during sleep.

What can happen if I do not get sleep apnea treated?

The first thing that tends to occur from untreated sleep apnea and snoring is disturbances in a personal relationship by keeping your partner awake at night. From a medical perspective, sleep apnea has a strong relationship to medical conditions such as: high blood pressure, increased risk for heart attack and stroke, weight gain, headaches, diabetes, depression and anxiety, acid reflux, and impotency and sexual dysfunction. Other things that can be noticed are mood swings, job impairment, increased likelihood of automobile accidents, and bruxism.

Does my insurance cover it?

We will work very hard to try to get your medical insurance to help cover some of the cost of treatment. If you are diagnosed by a sleep physician with a polysomnogram, we can submit the treatment through you medical insurance. There is not guarantee of payment from the insurance company, but we will work with you to create a payment plan if necessary.