Sleep apnea is a severe sleep disorder that affects many people. Statistics indicate that over a hundred million people suffer from the ailment worldwide. Treatment for the condition can involve multiple different specialists, depending on the cause and symptoms. Orthodontists are one of them. Dental clinics can help those who undergo this condition if its root lies in their area of specialty. In this article, we will explore what sleep apnea is and how functional orthodontics can help.
What is sleep apnea?
It is a sleep disorder in which a person will repeatedly stop breathing before resuming again. It can be serious, especially if a person fails to breathe for a long time, as it can interfere with the amount of oxygen being sent to the brain. If there is a severe lack of oxygen, a person can suffer from brain damage.
What are the symptoms?
A person with sleep apnea would not immediately know that they have the condition. However, the following symptoms would be a good indicator.
- Panting while sleeping
- Snoring loudly
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Morning headaches
- Feeling irritable
- Difficulty maintaining sleep
- Feeling extremely sleepy during the daytime
- Difficulty focusing while awake
If there is someone beside them while they sleep, they may report that the person stops breathing.
What are the types of sleep apnea?
There are three types of this condition with different causes.
Obstructive sleep apnea – Where the throat muscles relax, thus inhibiting breathing. Orthodontic issues can also cause it; therefore, dentists can provide treatment for this condition.
Central sleep apnea – In this, the brain fails to send the correct signals to the muscles that manage to breathe. Treatment for this condition requires neurologists.
Complex sleep apnea – a person will have both of the above types. Treatment will require the collaboration of multiple specialists
How can functional orthodontics help?
For obstructive sleep apnea, the common anatomic causes are an increased lower face height, maxillary or mandibular retrognathism, elongated soft palate, dental arch issues, large tongue, tooth or jaw misalignment, and a hyoid bone that is positioned inferiorly. As these concern parts of the jaw and mouth region, functional orthodontics can help correct them, as they specialize in treating issues that affect this area.
Depending on the cause of the apnea and the patient’s age, there are different treatments dentists will prescribe. If misaligned teeth cause it, then aligners and braces will slowly move the teeth into their correct positions. It can be used for both adults and children.
Orthodontic treatment that expands the upper jaw and arch, advancing the lower jaw, and modifying the facial bone structure, can also control the condition. Rapid palate expanders are commonly used to widen the upper jaw when treating this disorder in children. While they can also be used on adults, many opt for surgery instead of the time it takes to correct the issue. A mandibular advancement splint can be used to align the lower jaw properly. It is a custom brace that moves the jaw slightly forward and downward, widening the airway and reducing apnea symptoms.
If you or your loved one suffers from sleep apnea, contact German Dental Clinic and book an appointment to see a dentist.