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Sleep Apnea


Here at Northstar Dental, sleep apnea conditions are regularly dealt with to help patients achieve a better quality of life. Sleep apnea is an illness that results in interrupted sleep due to breathing difficulties. People that suffer from sleep apnea will experience prolonged periods when breathing stops. When this occurs, the brain is triggered to wake the person up briefly so they can take a breath. Sometimes this occurs so fast the person does not register having woken up.

Because the person does not remember what happened, it is usually their partner that informs them of the observed behavior. Other symptoms that could indicate the condition include loud snoring, dry mouth, insomnia, tiredness, and irritability.

Causes of Sleep Apnea


There are two main types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by the muscles at the back of the throat relaxing. This loosens the tongue, soft palate, tonsils, and walls of the throat. When this happens, it causes the airway to become constricted and at times, close completely. When there is restricted or no airflow into the lungs, the resulting low oxygen levels prompt the brain to rouse the sufferer to adjust. This wakeful period is often characterized by quick snorting or gasping.

The action can repeat itself numerous times through the night, preventing the sufferer from achieving any meaningful deep sleep. Some risk factors that increase the likelihood of suffering this form of apnea include obesity, thicker neck circumferences, family history of the same disorder, smoking, and being an older male.

Central sleep apnea is more neurological as the brain fails to send proper signals to the breathing muscles. This kind of apnea results in the body unconsciously making no effort to breathe for short periods. The sufferer then wakes up short of breath and experiences difficulty trying to sleep. It is a less common form of apnea and mostly afflicts older men, those with congestive heart disorders and those on narcotic pain medication.

Treatment Options


Diagnosis for sleep apnea usually requires a sleep study where your sleep cycle can be monitored, and any changes in physical activity recorded. The changes in patterns will confirm the presence and severity of the condition. For those with obstructive sleep apnea, the use of a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) is prescribed. The mask is worn over the mouth and nose and helps by pushing air into the airway, keeping it open. We also offer mouthguards that can be worn at night to prevent sleep apnea.

Another option is the use of dental appliances to help bring the jaw and tongue down. This opens up the airway and reduces snoring. Surgery may also be prescribed to remove some tissue around the throat, such as tonsils, helping also to open up the airway.

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that can result in risky complications such as high blood pressure, excessive tiredness, type II diabetes, and liver problems. There is also the stress suffered by partners when the sufferer snores and their breathing keeps stopping and starting.

To find out if you are suffering from this condition and what treatments are available, contact Northstar Dental at (303) 481-3901 now.
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