Posts for tag: sleep apnea
We all know how much better we feel after a good night’s sleep: refreshed, energized and ready to handle — even excel at — our day-to-day responsibilities. Yet millions of people, young and old, are robbed of a good night’s rest by sleep-related breathing disorders such as sleep apnea, in which the soft tissues in the back of the throat block the airway during sleep. This temporarily disrupts airflow, causing numerous “micro-arousals” (sleep interruptions) that we may not even be aware of. A lack of sleep can make us drowsy, irritable and unfocused. In children, these typical symptoms of sleep apnea can lead to mistaken diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The relationship between sleep apnea and behavioral problems has been highlighted in several recent scientific journal articles, including a major study published several years ago in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The lead author, Dr. Karen Bonuck, said at the time: “We found that children with sleep-disordered breathing were from 40 to 100 percent more likely to develop neurobehavioral problems by age 7, compared with children without breathing problems. The biggest increase was in hyperactivity, but we saw significant increases across [other] behavioral measures.” Therefore, an accurate diagnosis of a child’s behavioral problems — leading to the right treatment — is crucial. While sleep apnea must be diagnosed by a physician, treatment for the condition is often provided by a dentist.
What can be done for children suffering from sleep apnea? The most common treatment is surgical removal of the tonsils or adenoids. This treatment can sometimes be performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, a dentist who has received several years of post-graduate surgical training. There are several other procedures oral surgeons can perform to open the airway, depending on what anatomical structures are blocking it.
Sometimes a child with sleep apnea can benefit from a procedure to expand the palate (roof of the mouth) to enlarge the airway. This is not a surgical treatment but rather an orthodontic one. An orthodontist (a dentist who specializes in moving teeth) will fit the child with a palatal expander, a butterfly-shaped device that gradually separates the two bones that form the upper jaw and roof of the mouth. This is often done to prevent crowding of teeth and other bite problems, but has been shown in some cases to improve airflow.
There is another dental approach used to treat adults and older children, whose jaw growth is complete. It’s called oral appliance therapy, and it involves wearing a custom-made device during sleep that resembles a sports mouthguard or orthodontic retainer. An oral appliance can maintain an opened, unobstructed, upper airway during sleep in various ways, including: repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula; stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue; increasing the muscle tone of the tongue.
If your child has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, we can help you find the best treatment approach. For more information, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry” and “Snoring & Sleep Apnea.”
Jillian Michaels, personal trainer and star of television's The Biggest Loser isn't afraid of a tough situation — like a heart-pumping exercise routine that mixes kickboxing with a general cardio workout. But inside, she told an interviewer from Dear Doctor magazine, she's really a softie, with “a drive to be one of the good guys.” In her hit TV shows, she tries to help overweight people get back to a healthy body mass. And in doing so, she comes face-to-face with the difficult issue of sleep apnea.
“When I encounter sleep apnea it is obviously weight related. It's incredibly common and affects millions of people,” she says. Would it surprise you to know that it's a problem dentists encounter as well?
Sleep apnea is a type of sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD) that's associated with being overweight, among other things. Chronic loud snoring is one symptom of this condition. A person with sleep apnea may wake 50 or more times per hour and have no memory of it. These awakenings last just long enough to allow an individual to breathe — but don't allow a deep and restful sleep. They may also lead to other serious problems, and even complications such as brain damage from lack of oxygen.
What's the dental connection? Sleep apnea can sometimes be effectively treated with an oral appliance that's available here at the dental office. The appliance, worn at night, repositions the jaw to reduce the possibility of the tongue obstructing the throat and closing the airway. If you are suffering from sleep apnea, an oral appliance may be recommended — it's a conservative treatment that's backed by substantial scientific evidence.
As Michaels says, “I tell people that [sleep apnea] is not a life sentence... It will get better with hard work and a clean diet.” So listen to the trainer! If you would like more information about sleep-related breathing disorders, please contact us for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sleep Disorders and Dentistry.”