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Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can have possible life threatening consequences. It is characterized by repeated lapses in breathing during sleep.The word "sleep apnea" is derived from the Greek word meaning "without breath". Breathing lapses can last anywhere from 2-3 seconds to several minutes, and occur as often as 40 times or more per hour. Ongoing discontinued breathing causes an imbalance between the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the bloodstream, as not enough oxygen is entering and not enough carbon dioxide is exiting the body.

Sensing this imbalance, the brain sends a relay to the body, telling it to arise and to begin the breathing process. People with sleep apnea will sometimes awaken as they have a difficult time brearhing, and this is sometimes accompanied by choking episodes or loud snoring. Most people are often unaware they have a sleeping disorder because they aren't totally awake, and it can, therefore, remain undiagnosed.

There are 2 common types of this disorder; central sleep apnea which happens when the brain ceases to transmit important signals to the breathing muscles, and obstructive sleep apnea which happens when air ceases to flow through the mouth or nose even when the body is still attempting to breathe. Obstructive sleep apnea is far more common and more easily treated by the dentist.

Common signals of obstructive sleep apnea can include sleepiness during the daytime, insomnia, and painful early morning headaches. Fortunately, Dr. Braithwaite is trained with the needed technology to diagnose and treat sleep apnea in several simple ways.

Why treat sleep apnea?

It is very essential to find medical attention if sleep apnea is suspected. One who suffers from sleep apnea may completely stop breathing several times per hour, and this may rapidly turn into a lethal situation. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissue sitting at the rear of the patient's throat collapses into the airway. The tongue then falls towards the rear of the throat which reduces the blockage and may prevent oxygen from going into the lungs.

The problem can worsen when the diaphragm, abdomen, and chest region, struggle for air. Further efforts can cause a tightening of the blockage when the patient is seeking vital oxygen. The patient must wake up from a deep sleep to remove the soft tissue from the airway and tense the tongue.

Since sleep apnea leads to oxygen levels decreasing and carbon dioxide levels to increase in the blood, the heart has to pump faster and harder to make up for the lack of oxygen. Sleep apnea patients may actually "die" several times each night. Sleep apnea has been associated with a link of serious heart-related conditions, and, if indicated, will be looked into by the dentist at the soonest opportunity.

What does sleep apnea treatment involve?

To begin, Dr. Braithwaite will want to administer tests in order to diagnose, pinpoint, and investigate, proper treatment. Dr. Braithwaite may offer several different treatment plans which depend mainly on the precise diagnosis and the overall health of the patient. Dr. Braithwaite may advise the patient to stop some habits that can have deleterious effects, i.e. alcohol consumption, smoking, and use of tranquilizers.

Sleeping masks were commonly used to keep the patient's air passage open during sleep, but presently there are some easier options. Dental appliances that gently slide the lower jaw forward are very proficient in keeping in preventing the tongue from blocking the main airway. These dental appliances are simple to wear, gentle, and often help patients stay away from unneeded surgeries.

A more fixed solution is to have surgery that sections the mandible and helps place the bone securing the tongue forward slightly. Each individual case will be different and the best course of action will be formally diagnosed by Dr. Braithwaite and his team.