Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that causes brief periods of interruption in breathing while sleeping. The person's breathing may stop for 10 seconds or longer each time the sleep apnea occurs.
Because the person's body isn't receiving enough oxygen, sleep apnea puts a strain on the heart. The patient's brain may not receive an adequate amount of oxygen, which can lead to problems such as confusion. Patients with sleep apnea will not sleep optimally and often feel tired after a full night's rest. Patients may feel irritable the following day due to a restless sleep that they experienced throughout the night.
Two types of sleep apnea exist: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea occurs in the brain, whereas obstructive sleep apnea is the more common form that's caused by the relaxation of the soft tissue in the back of the mouth.
A variety of approaches can be used, depending on the severity of the case. In mild to moderate cases of obstructive sleep apnea, a dentist can provide a customized oral appliance that keeps the mouth slightly opened during sleep. Other options include a CPAP or BiPAP to assist a patient with breathing. The doctor might also prescribe medications such as sedatives or muscle relaxants to encourage restful sleep.
The dentist has the ability to fabricate a dental device that looks much like a mouth guard. It prevents the obstruction that a person experiences as a result of the sleep apnea. The dentist has the ability to fabricate it and fit the patient for the device. The dental equipment holds the tongue in place so that it doesn't block airways. The device supports the jaw in order to prevent the airways from becoming obstructed. Patients should keep in mind that only a dentist can successfully treat obstructive sleep apnea with an oral appliance.
Dr. Alfano has been fabricating oral appliances to treat sleep apnea for over 15 years. He works with board certified sleep physicians to ensure the appliance is helping the patient as intended.
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