I am proud to say that I have all my own teeth at the age of 65. While that may not sound unusual to some people, everyone in my family who is my age or older wears dentures. I always tell people that that flossing is the key to good dental health. I have arthritis in my hands, but I don't let it keep me from flossing every day. My trick is to use those little "flossers" you can buy at the drug store. They have plastic handles floss stretched out on top of the handle. These make flossing easier on days when my arthritis is acting up. I started this blog to let other people know that they can keep their teeth healthy into old age when they take care of them. If you have hand pain, find ways to make flossing easier, like I did.
Does your significant other banish you to the couch at night because your snoring is really loud? It may be simple snoring and you're just really good at it. Or, it could be an indicator of sleep apnea, which can be serious if left untreated. The following is an explanation of sleep apnea and a listing of treatment alternatives, some of which can be found at specially certified dentists' offices.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where your breathing stops and starts when you are sleeping. Snoring is one indicator, which is why if you have a loud snore that can be heard in the next room, you might want to get checked out. Other symptoms may include:
The Sleep Specialist
The only way to find out if you have sleep apnea is to visit a sleep specialist and undergo a sleep test. Sometimes these are done in a hospital setting, where you are hooked up to various machines during your overnight stay. Home sleep tests are also done, using portable monitoring devices. Once you have the diagnosis and understand which type of sleep apnea you have, you can consider different treatments.
Two Forms of Sleep Apnea
There are actually two common forms of sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
This is the most common, caused by the soft tissues at the back of your throat relaxing during sleep. As a result, your airway narrows or sometimes closes and you can't breathe properly. The snoring occurs when the tissues relax. As the level of oxygen in your blood decreases, your brain sends a signal to wake up so you can breathe. Most of the time the waking up is so brief that you don't remember it. But, it can happen all night long, which explains feeling tired and sleepy during the daytime.
Central Sleep Apnea
This is much less common. Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain doesn't deliver messages to your breathing muscles. You will experience snoring. When waking up you are sometimes gasping for breath, so you will most likely remember the episode. This sleep apnea is usually a side effect of underlying medical problems, such as heart issues.
Types of Treatments
Sleep specialist will recommend lifestyle changes for milder forms of sleep apnea. These could include stopping smoking or losing weight, both of which contribute to sleep apnea. If these don't work, or if you have a more severe case, other treatment options are available.
CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. These machines are one of the most common treatments for sleep apnea. The patient wears a mask that delivers a constant stream of air into the throat, keeping the airway from collapsing. The original masks covered both mouth and nose but the newer models only fit over the nose, making them less cumbersome. Today's machines are fairly quiet, and some have humidifiers to cut down on dry mouth, a side effect. A newer device, the EPAP, meaning Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure, is a valve-like, single-use device that fits over the nostrils and is not connected to a machine. But if even the EPAP is more than you can handle, you could consider oral appliances.
Oral appliances, available at dentists' offices that specialize in sleep apnea, are designed to hold your throat open. Most are made of an acrylic material and fit inside your mouth, similar to an athlete's mouth guard. The mandibular repositioning device brings your lower jaw forward, opening your airway. Another option, the tongue retaining device, keeps the back of your tongue from falling back into the airway. Since these devices are worn all night, every night, it's important to get them fitted by a dentist to minimize soreness and prevent damage to your teeth. The initial fitting is followed by periodic adjustments and dental checks.