Sleep apnea is defined as a person who stops breathing or experiences shallow breathing for a period of time while sleeping. Snoring is often a sign of sleep apnea, but the disorder cannot be recognized solely by that symptom.
If you live alone, it’s difficult to spot the signs of sleep apnea because many of them happen while you’re asleep. However, if you’re struggling with the disorder, you’ll notice symptoms while you’re awake. These symptoms include:
- Waking up during sleep, gasping for air, or choking.
- Waking up with a dry mouth.
- Waking up with headaches.
- Feeling extremely fatigued during the day.
In addition to these signs and symptoms, you will also notice changes in your teeth. You’ll experience teeth grinding, which leads to damaged teeth and cavities. For orthodontists, these are often leading indicators of sleep apnea in patients. Other signs that orthodontists look for are a tongue with scalloped edges, small jaws, and redness in the throat.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
There are certain risk factors such as family history, genetics, and being overweight that put patients at risk for sleep apnea. Another likely factor is the anatomy of the patient’s jaw and mouth structure. Research shows that most cases of sleep apnea are caused by airway obstruction.
Airway obstructions typically come in two forms: overbites and larger elements in your mouth, like the tongue, tonsils, or uvula.
An overbite is when the upper and lower jaw does not meet. When the lower jaw is positioned further back than the upper jaw, then the soft tissue like the palette and tongue slide further back. This causes a disruption to normal airflow.
When a patient has a larger tongue, tonsils, or uvula, then these parts often fall back and restrict normal airflow. This happens if the tongue sits above the back teeth while resting, when the tonsils are too large and fall back, or if the uvula rests on the tongue while sleeping.
How an Orthodontist Can Help with Sleep Apnea
There are a few solutions an orthodontist can provide to patients with sleep apnea, depending on the root cause of the disorder.
If sleep apnea is a jaw or mouth structural issue, then an orthodontist can provide symptomatic relief by repositioning the jaw. This includes adjusting the lower jaw to the right position so that obstructions are limited for more optimal natural airflow. This process uses special appliances and orthodontic treatments like adding braces or aligners with elastics to shift the jaw forward.
Another potential solution for patients with underdeveloped or narrow palates is palate expanders. This is typically effective in children, or younger patients, whose jaws are not fully developed. Demko Orthodontics routinely use expanders with enormous success with adults to relieve sleep apnea and snoring. Most recently, they are also seeing success with the use of Invisalign for relief of similar symptoms.
Schedule an Appointment with Dr. Demko to Help Treat Sleep Apnea
When left untreated, sleep apnea causes long-term issues and puts you at risk for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure, and stroke.If you’re showing signs of sleep apnea, contact us at any of our convenient locations today to schedule a consultation. Our professionals offer tailored services for sleep apnea and to support your overall oral health. With extensive experience in helping patients find sleep apnea relief, our team helps patients find the right oral device to suit their needs. them.