Many people unknowingly suffer from Sleep Apnea which is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder which causes repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. These events can last anywhere from several seconds to minutes, and may happen many times each hour that you are asleep. These frequent disruptions in breathing lead to low oxygen and high carbon dioxide levels in the bloodstream.
The body’s response to this imbalance is to send a message to the body, telling it to wake up to force you to breathe. People with sleep apnea will partially awaken each time they struggle to breathe, and this is often accompanied by loud snoring or choking sensations. Because people with sleep apnea don’t always completely awake during the episodes, they are often unaware they have a sleeping disorder and it can remain undiagnosed.
Are you concerned about the impact of snoring on your health?
Sleep Apnea has two different causes:
- Central sleep apnea which occurs when the brain fails to send the signals to your breathing muscles
- Obstructive sleep apnea which occurs when air cannot flow through the nose or mouth because the airway is blocked. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common of these and can be treated by Dr Fletcher.
Common signs you or a loved one may be affected by obstructive sleep apnea are:
- Early morning headaches
- Sleepiness in the daytime
- Loud Snoring while sleeping
- High Blood Pressure
- Acid Reflux (GERD)
- Grinding of Teeth
How do I know if I have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
The only way to know if you are affected by OSA is to be tested. Dr. Fletcher and his staff are trained to identify the risk factors and can help you know if testing is warranted. We use airway diagnostic technology to evaluate your airway and if obstructions are detected then the next step is a Sleep Study. Dr. Fletcher will coordinate with your physician or refer you to a sleep specialist if needed.
Dr. Fletcher can provide you with a device to do a Home Sleep Study that can provide data needed to make a diagnosis. The results from this home sleep test are then interpreted by a Board Certified Sleep Physician and if OSA is diagnosed, treatment options will then be discussed.
How is Obstructive Sleep Apnea treated?
Treatment options for treating OSA are:
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
- This involves wearing a mask over the nose and/or mouth while sleeping and air is pumped into the airway holding it open so breathing is not disrupted. Although this is very effective many people find it unpleasant for a variety of reasons.
- This is usually a last resort as it is most invasive and irreversible.
- Dr. Fletcher can make a customized appliance for you that positions your lower jaw so that during sleep your airway remains open. This therapy is very effective for patients with moderate to mild OSA helping them be healthier and improving quality of life. There are a few types of appliances and the one that addresses your needs will be made for you. These appliances are covered by your medical insurance, not dental insurance.
What about store bought or internet “Snoring Appliances”?
Many devices are available online or in stores that claim to be a solution for snoring. Some have moderate success in treating snoring but none of them are able to treat the true problem of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Using these appliances is like placing a bandage over a skin cancer lesion; you can’t see it anymore but a serious disease is still there. Additionally, Dr. Fletcher has seen instances where these snore appliances have caused damage to teeth, gums, and TMJ.