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Sleep apnea can oftentimes be difficult to diagnose without a sleep test. Common symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, awakening suddenly, gasping for breath in your sleep, difficulty staying asleep, and excessive drowsiness or fatigue. For many of these symptoms, it is very hard for an individual patient to notice that they are suffering from sleep apnea. If you suspect you are suffering from sleep apnea, contact your dentist. They can have a large role in helping treat your sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea, and how can your dentist treat it?

There are two major forms of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Much like the name would suggest, in obstructive sleep apnea, your soft palate obstructs your airway. This happens once you fall asleep, as the muscles that hold this palate in place relax. In turn, your airway narrows, leading your brain to believe you are not getting enough oxygen. This causes your brain to wake you up to readjust so that you begin to breathe normally again. In many cases, the awakening is so slight that you don’t even remember that you woke up. This can happen upwards of 30 times an hour while you sleep, preventing you from falling into rapid eye movement sleep. This is why many patients with sleep apnea feel groggy and experience memory issues, since rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep) is directly tied to short and long-term memory retention. This means sleep apnea can play a role in memory issues.

The second type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is unique because nothing is actually obstructing your airway when you sleep. Your brain decides to send the oxygen warning signal and wakes you up, even though you are not physically unable to breathe. Sleep apnea can increase your risk for obesity, heart problems, sleep disorders, and mood disorders, and can cause frustration and irritability in patients. The good news is, your dentist can help treat your obstructive sleep apnea.

How Your Dentists Can Help

When it comes to treating obstructive sleep apnea, your dentist can be a crucial resource to help you get back to a normal sleep cycle. By creating a mandibular advancement device, also known as a dental sleep device, your dentist can help strengthen your soft palate and prevent sleep apnea. The device, which looks and acts a lot like a mouthguard, pulls your lower jaw forwards, tensing your soft palate muscles and preventing them from collapsing in your sleep. By doing this, not only will you get a restful night sleep, you will strengthen your palate, with the potential to cure your obstructive sleep apnea. When it comes to treating your sleep apnea, your dentist holds a key role by monitoring your sleep apnea and helping prevent airway obstruction.

If you or a loved one suffers from sleep apnea in the Mt Pleasant, SC area, give our office a call. Crossland Dental Associates can help set up a consultation appointment for you so you can get on the path to a more restful sleep right away.