How important is a good night's sleep? Some people survive on a few hours, some need ten! The quality of sleep can be reduced by Sleep Related Breathing Disorders (SRBD). Medical and dental research continues to discover just how SRBD's affect our health. The most commonly known disorder is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA and other sleeping disorders all reduce the amount of oxygen in the body. This is called "Hypoxia". Hypoxia is associated with many common health problems such as; diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and cancer, to name a few. Most people are unaware that these conditions are associated with disordered sleep. What the patient usually notices most of all is excessive daytime sleepiness. This is due to the fact that just as a person begins to enter the most restful deep sleep the airway is compromised and breathing diminishes or stops. Following this the body wakes itself up to start the breathing again. This can occur hundreds of times every night, preventing the body from getting the oxygen it needs to help repair everyday damage.
Snoring is the other common symptom, although it is not ALWAYS associated with OSA. Snoring is not a problem for the sleeper, but for the bed partner! Anyone who has been told they snore should ask their partner if they have noticed that they stop breathing or make coughing or choking sounds while sleeping. I personally snore and have been wearing a dental appliance that treats this for several years with great success..... I'm still married!
The gold standard for treating OSA is the CPAP machine. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. The CPAP machine helps the sleeper's airway stay open by blowing air through a tube and face mask or nose piece of various designs. However, studies show that the compliance rate for wearing the device is low. This is where dentistry fits in. For mild to moderate conditions, a dental appliance that opens a person's airway to make breathing is easier can be worn instead of CPAP. These dental appliances can also be worn with a CPAP device in more severe cases to allow the machine to blow at a lower pressure. This improves the comfort of CPAP therapy. Patient compliance with dental appliance therapy tends to be greater and the cost of dental appliances is usually less than CPAP therapy. All the patients I have treated that also had experience with CPAP therapy agree that the dental appliance is easier to wear.
This is a very interesting new area of study for me and I have been using it to treat patients for several years now. If you or someone you love snores, has poor sleep patterns or falls asleep easily during the day (especially after a full night's sleep) I encourage you to talk to me or a family physician for further evaluation.