Dental treatment of sleep apnea is a growing field in dentistry. As you may know, snoring and sleep apnea are quite common. Snoring does not necessarily have serious consequences (aside from being annoying to the person you sleep next to!). The more critical issue that needs to be managed is sleep apnea.
The videos on the right from the Mayo Clinic illustrate what happens with sleep apnea. While you are sleeping, your airway may become blocked due to the tongue falling back into the throat (usually from snoring) and relaxation of the throat muscles. You have momentary pauses in breathing and this can lead to a temporary lack of oxygen to the brain. Sleep apnea itself is not necessarily fatal because your body’s natural reflexes wake you up so that you can breathe again. When someone is heavily intoxicated or medicated these reflexes can be altered and it can lead to grave consequences.
Where sleep apnea becomes dangerous is for people who have pre-existing cardiac conditions. To keep it simple, when you stop breathing, you can place undue stress on your heart that is trying to pump blood to your organs, such as your brain. Since the blood is not well-oxygenated, the heart has to work even harder thinking it has to push more blood to vital structures. This can cause a heart attack or lead to other serious consequences.
The first line of treatment usually involves a CPAP machine which mimics a jet fighter’s mask in size. The purpose of the CPAP is to force positive air pressure into your lungs so that air can pass by your tongue that is obstructing your airflow.
Some people cannot tolerate wearing the CPAP device because of its bulky size and discomfort. Fortunately, dentists are able to offer a great alternative. We can fabricate an oral appliance that keeps your jaw in a more forward position while you are sleeping, which keeps your airway from collapsing.
What does it cost? Generally, your medical insurance will cover the cost of these oral appliances, especially if you have failed at trying to wear a CPAP machine. However, they will only pay for it ONCE, so it is best to make sure you have a properly trained person managing your care. Dr Mirzayan uses 3D imaging to visualize your airway and to develop an oral appliance that will place your jaw in the most ideal position without affecting or straining your jaw joint. With digital algorithms, we can accurately predict the proper position for your jaw. Numerous cardiologists have entrusted us with the care of their patients. In some cases, they even prefer that we intervene with dental therapy even before a CPAP is administered. If you think you might have sleep apnea or know someone who might, contact us at (213) 553-4535 to schedule a consultation.