Orthodontic Treatment Can Alleviate Sleep Apnea and Reduce Airway Issues
Sleep apnea is a serious disorder in which a person involuntarily stops breathing during their sleep cycle. This lack of oxygen can lead to symptoms such as severe headaches, chronic fatigue, and snoring, and can have a significant negative impact on your quality of life. In Louisville, KY, and Radcliff, KY, Dr. Knight offers treatment for patients who suffer from sleep apnea and airway problems. Because several risk factors for sleep disorders include the positions of the oral and maxillofacial structures, orthodontic treatment offers long-term success for many patients. There are many treatment options available, and the method will depend on each individual.
Sleep apnea not only causes a multitude of health issues for the patient, but it is also disruptive for his or her partner. Someone suffering from sleep apnea may not be aware of the noise and commotion that is often a byproduct of interrupted sleep. Typically, after holding his or her breath for an extended period of time, the sleeper will partially wake and take large, forceful breaths. This can be worrisome for a sleep partner, who will often lie awake to make sure his or her significant other is still breathing.
Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can be caused by genetics, environmental factors, or a combination of both. If any of these indicators are true, you may have a higher risk of developing a sleep disorder:
- Age: If you are over 40, you have a greater risk of developing sleep apnea.
- Gender: The probability of sleep apnea is more likely in males.
- Position of hard and soft tissues: The structure of your soft palate and airways can directly affect your breathing. Narrow passageways are insufficient for a large volume of air to pass through. The size of your soft tissues can also negatively affect sleep, such as enlarged tonsils or an oversized tongue. Oral and maxillofacial structures such as your jaws and temporomandibular joint contribute to the shape and size of your airways.
- Mouth breathing: Chronic mouth breathers take too much air into the lungs, resulting in an increase of negative pressure on the airways. This also leads to the development of severe dry mouth, which keeps the tissues inflamed and results in discomfort.
- Sleeping on your back: Sleep position plays a significant role in patients with sleep disorders. When you lie on your back, there is an increased intake of air, which can result in snoring. This sleep position also encourages the lower jaw to relax, which decreases the diameter of the upper airway.
- Sinus problems: Congested nasal passages or chronic sinus issues can interfere with normal breathing.
- Obesity: Overweight patients have a higher risk of developing sleep disorders, due to the enlargement of soft tissue in the back of the throat.
- Large neck size: The risk of airway collapse increases in patients with thicker necks. Average neck circumference is 17 inches in male patients and 16 inches in female patients.
Symptoms of Sleep Disorders
Sleep apnea can exhibit a variety of warning signs. If you notice one or more of these symptoms, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder:
- Interrupted sleep
- Frequent bathroom trips throughout the night
- Morning fatigue
- Nighttime asthma
- Dry mouth
- Severe coughing or wheezing upon waking
Treatment Approaches for Sleep Apnea
Orthodontic treatment can play a vital role in the alleviation of sleep disorders. When determining the most practical treatment for you, Dr. Knight will evaluate how your bite fits together, the movement of your jaw joints, and your jaw position, among other factors. Treatment options for sleep apnea range from simple to complex. Your treatment will be determined by your individual needs. Many patients have experienced significant improvement with these solutions:
- Myofunctional therapy: Focused on developing healthy muscle patterns, myofunctional therapy offers corrective facial exercises to encourage proper function.
- Buteyko breathing technique: This form of therapy concentrates on the importance of nasal breathing and encourages normal air volume. Because sleep apnea can be a result of mouth breathing, this is particularly helpful to ensure the airways remain protected and healthy.
- CPAP: One of the most common treatments for sleep apnea, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure provides a steady stream of air to keep the airways open during sleep. While successful for many patients, some find the required mask to be too obtrusive.
- Oral appliance therapy: Like a retainer or night guard, an appliance can be custom-made to help maintain correct position of the tongue and jaw.