Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a severe and life-threatening disease caused by a number of factors. The literal translation of the word apnea means “without breath,” and that is exactly what happens repeatedly throughout a person’s sleep. Those who suffer from sleep apnea experience frequent breathing pauses lasting a few seconds due to an obstruction of the airway passage. Loud snoring, gasping, choking, and frequent awakenings can also occur as a result of sleep apnea.
Children are also at risk for sleep apnea as they can experience behavioral problems (ADHD), learning disabilities, and inattention. At night they may have loud breathing, unusual body positions, restlessness and even bed wetting.
How Common is Sleep Apnea?
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, “It is estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed.” Of those with sleep apnea, it is more common in men than in women. The National Sleep Foundation states that “one-half of people who snore loudly have obstructive sleep apnea.”
What are the Symptoms?
Other than making a loud, rattling or vibrating noise while snoring, consult your doctor if you or a loved one shows the following signs or symptoms:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Morning headaches
- Recent weight gain
- Awakening in the morning not feeling rested
- Awaking at night feeling confused
- Change in your level of attention, concentration, or memory
- Observed pauses in breathing during sleep
How can Orthodontics Help Sleep Apnea?
While most people associate orthodontics with helping to create beautiful, straight smiles, that’s only scratching the surface. Orthodontist Dr. W. Gray Grieve at Dr. W. Gray Grieve Orthodontics works closely with sleep medicine doctors to diagnose and treat obstructive sleep apnea. If a patient is suspected of having a sleep disorder, they are referred to a sleep clinic to test their sleep patterns. Once an official diagnosis is confirmed, we work with the sleep specialists to determine the best course of orthodontic treatment.
It is important to note that orthodontists do not make the diagnosis and orthodontics does not always solve the problem of sleep apnea. Instead, orthodontists intervene to properly align the jaws and improve airflow.
For example, a patient with a misaligned jaw can be fitted for a custom device to be worn at night while sleeping to keep the jaw in the right position and airways clear. This could eliminate the need for a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine – which tend to be loud and difficult to sleep with.
For more information on sleep apnea and how orthodontics can help, contact our office to schedule a consultation. We look forward to helping you get a better night’s sleep!