Sleep apnoea is as common as diabetes and more severe than most people realise. Sleep medicine specialists estimate that people with sleep apnoea have a much higher mortality risk and this risk increases when the condition goes untreated (1). A recent study has shown that one in 10 Australians suffer from undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnoea.(2)
If you suspect you might have sleep apnoea, a medical evaluation is essential. Most diagnosed cases require treatment by a team of professionals that may include your dentist.
What is Sleep Apnoea?
Sleep apnoea is a serious condition that’s characterised as intermittent breathing, gasping and or snoring while you sleep. Sleep apnoea causes prolonged pauses in breathing throughout the night, resulting in poor sleep quality. These pauses are involuntary and can happen hundreds of times during the night, lasting for at least ten seconds but do not fully awaken the person. These episodes can last for more than one minute and affect the supply of oxygen to the body and cause a range of associated medical issues.
Types of Sleep Apnoea
- Obstructive sleep apnoea
Obstructive sleep apnoea is the most common of the three types and results from airway blockage. The soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and closes, preventing normal breathing while asleep. Partial or complete blockages can occur repeatedly and conclude by resuming normal breathing with the body jerking or a loud gasp (2).
- Central sleep apnoea
Instead of an airway blockage, the brain does not function properly in signalling the muscles involved in breathing. This results in slow, shallow breathing.
- Mixed sleep apnoea
Also known as complex sleep apnoea, this is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnoea symptoms.
Sleep Apnoea Risk Factors
Sleep apnoea affects adults and children of all ages but poses a greater risk for certain people (3). Common risk factors include:
- Over 40 years of age
- Larger neck circumference (4)
- Large tonsils or tongue
- Small jaw
- Family history
- Deviated septum
- Nasal obstruction caused by allergies or sinus problems
- Alcohol consumption
- Small lower jaw
- Using sedatives or tranquillisers
Sleep Apnoea Symptoms
Even though sleep apnoea causes the person to stop breathing hundreds of times a night, most people don’t remember it. Sometimes daytime sleepiness and others hearing the snoring are the only signs of a problem. The most common symptoms include:
- Disruption of breathing that causes difficulty with complete stoppage of breathing while asleep
- Extreme daytime sleepiness
- Morning headaches
- Loud snoring that usually occurs every night
- Waking up during the night gasping for breath
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lapses of memory
- Moodiness and depression
- Irritability (5)
Impact on General Health
Sleep apnoea can cause sleep deprivation, affecting you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Lack of sleep and oxygen deprivation from sleep apnoea has far-reaching consequences and can contribute to medical problems such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
- Atrial fibrillation
- Cancer (6)
How Dentists Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)
Your dentist or GP can refer you to a sleep specialist to undergo a sleep study, confirming a sleep apnoea diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnoea, your dentist may be able to provide suitable treatment involving an oral appliance.
For patients diagnosed with mild to moderate OSA, a dentist can custom-design and fit an oral appliance known as a mandibular advancement device. It works by pushing the jaw forward, keeping the tongue in position and opening up the airway to avoid obstruction and snoring.
For patients with severe OSA, an oral appliance usually isn’t suitable and instead, their GP may recommend team care arrangements to address:
- Lifestyle changes such as weight loss and smoking
- Airway pressure devices such as CPAP
- Supplemental oxygen
- Airflow devices such as Adaptive Servo-Ventilation
To find out more about the cost of an oral appliance for obstructive sleep apnoea Kelmscott Dental, book a consultation today. We offer flexible payment plans from trusted providers to help you access treatment sooner.
Benefits of an Oral Appliance for Mild to Moderate OSA
If you have mild to moderate OSA an oral appliance might offer the best treatment option (7). The benefits of using a custom-fit oral appliance to treat sleep apnoea include:
- Easy to wear
- Very effective treatment option for those who cannot use CPAP
- No electricity required
- Low cost
- Easier for people with claustrophobia