Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by loud snores and breathing troubles during sleep. People with sleep apnea typically wake up multiple times during the night, which sets them up for daytime exhaustion and lethargy. Experiencing breathing complications while you sleep not only minimizes your sleep quality but also increases your risk of developing certain health conditions. But one of the best ways to manage this condition is by enlisting the help of an orthodontist. An orthodontist is a dental practitioner that diagnoses and treats misaligned teeth and jaws. If you’re battling sleep apnea, you can visit an orthodontist to seek help. At Hatcher & Frey Orthodontics, we help people overcome sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
If you have sleep apnea, your breathing is not smooth and stable; instead, it is peppered with sudden starts and stops. Sleep apnea typically subjects the victim to inadequate sleep. The major sign of sleep apnea is snoring. If you give off loud snores while sleeping, there’s a good chance that you have sleep apnea. But then again, snoring is not the only symptom of sleep apnea.
Before treatment is administered, it’s critical to establish sleep apnea, and there are generally three types: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea.
- Obstructive sleep apnea: this is the most prevalent type of sleep apnea. It usually kicks in when the airway becomes obstructed. The airway may be obstructed by throat muscles or other things, but either way, it disrupts normal breathing patterns. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, some of the common signs include snoring loudly, being breathless, waking up with a dry mouth, insomnia, poor focus, bad tempers, and sleeping too much during the day. This condition also causes you to awaken many times during the night.
- Central sleep apnea: this type of sleep apnea kicks in when your brain fails to control your breathing muscles.
- Complex sleep apnea: this sleep disorder is an amalgam of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Orthodontic Causes of Sleep Apnea
In cases of obstructive sleep apnea, the problem starts when the tongue or throat muscles obstruct the airway. But in other instances, the airway may be obstructed by different orthodontic problems. Some of these issues include:
- Tooth misalignment: this problem usually arises when the jaw is smaller as compared to the teeth. The victim might feel uncomfortable and experience challenges with eating. Misaligned teeth can obstruct the air and cause sleep apnea.
- Jaw misalignment: this is the dental condition where the upper and lower teeth appear lopsided when locked together. The upper teeth might protrude more than the lower teeth, or the lower teeth might be positioned too far in front of the upper teeth. Jaw misalignments can make for an obstruction in the airway and trigger sleep apnea.
- Dental arch problems: a dental arch problem can lead to a crossbite. In certain instances, dental arch issues can trigger breathing difficulties, and subsequently, sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Orthodontic Treatments
Orthodontists play a role in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea. The type of orthodontic treatment administered depends on the orthodontic problem behind sleep apnea. The following are some of the common treatments that orthodontists use to treat sleep apnea:
1. Mandibular Advancement Device
This oral appliance holds the jaw and the tongue in a forward position, thus creating more room in the airway and eliminating obstructions. The appliance needs to be custom-made to achieve a proper fit and work effectively at holding the airway open.
2. Braces and Aligners
The common way of correcting misaligned teeth is through the use of braces and aligners. They help with correcting misaligned teeth, and they also aid with removing any obstruction in the airway. And this procedure helps with preventing sleep apnea.
3. Dental Arch Improvement
Dental arch issues can present various complications that can lead to obstruction of the airway. And so, by eliminating these dental arch problems, you are also able to get rid of sleep apnea.
When to See an Orthodontist
Snoring loudly is usually a symptom of sleep apnea, but not everyone that snores has the condition. The following are some of the common sleep apnea symptoms:
- Starts and stops in breathing pattern during sleep: these starts and stops in their breathing pattern that a victim experiences while asleep can be caused by different things.
- Gasping for breath: the victim might also gasp for breath, and this usually happens when the victim pauses for a long time without breathing.
- Drowsiness and irritability: sleep apnea denies the victim quality sleep, and this can affect their emotional and psychological health and predispose them to lethargy and irritability.