What is sleep apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common and dangerous sleep disorder that affects millions of Americans, while many cases remain undiagnosed. Because symptoms are mostly present during sleep, it is not uncommon to see patients who have been suffering from sleep apnea for years and had no idea.
Sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues in the back of the throat collapse during sleep, obstructing the airway and making it difficult for the sufferer to breathe properly – or at all – throughout the night. Patients with sleep apnea will often wake up feeling exhausted after what should have been a full night’s rest.
Signs & Symptoms
Some of the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud, frequent snoring
- Choking or gasping for air
- Sleep disruptions
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Morning headaches
- Chronic tiredness & fatigue
- Frequent urination during the night
- Chronic heartburn
- Anxiety or depression
According to the National Institute of Health, 1 in 5 American adults suffer from sleep apnea, and 9 out of 10 cases remain undiagnosed. While anyone at any age can suffer from sleep apnea, there are certain risk factors that increase your chance of developing the sleep disorder, including if you are:
- Over age 40
- Overweight or have a large neck
- Regularly drink alcohol or use depressants
Left untreated, sleep apnea can have devastating consequences. Your lack of quality sleep can decrease your quality of life during the day, and put you at risk for serious systemic health problems. Untreated sleep apnea can cause:
- Depression, anxiety or chronic fatigue
- Chronic headaches & migraines
- Low blood oxygen levels
- Congestive heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
At Waterloo Heights, we take sleep apnea seriously because it not only affects your quality of sleep but your quality of life during the day and can lead to serious systemic health problems – and can even be deadly. We provide a convenient way to test your sleep at home. We use the most clinically validated home sleep test, the WatchPAT system that you’ll wear like wristwatch at night that monitors every time you stop breathing, your oxygen levels, and more. This will help us determine if your sleep apnea is mild, moderate, or severe so we can come up with a personalized treatment plan for you.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
At this point you may be wondering, “How can a dentist treat my sleep apnea?” Traditional sleep apnea treatment usually involves a CPAP machine, which many patients find intolerable because the machine is loud, bulky and uncomfortable. Sometimes in severe cases doctors must resort to invasive surgery. Your West Salem dentist offers a highly effective, non-invasive, convenient alternative for sleep apnea treatment with oral appliance therapy.
What is oral appliance therapy?
Oral appliance therapy uses a special device, an oral appliance that you wear like a mouthguard during sleep. The appliance gently shifts the lower forward, thus preventing the airway from collapsing and allowing you to breathe comfortably throughout the night. Oral appliances are custom-made for the perfect fit so they are as comfortable as possible – made just for you!
Oral appliance therapy has truly revolutionized sleep apnea treatment as we know it, and is a far cry from invasive surgery or a CPAP machine. If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, or have noticed any of the above signs and symptoms, Dr. Shih would love to help you take back your nights, your days and your life with a simple, affordable solution!