Conditions that impede a person’s ability to get a restful night’s sleep can cause additional medical issues and greatly impact their daily life. Proper diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea, loud snoring, or bruxism can lead to improved sleep and overall health, and a better quality of life.
Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, known as apneas. These interruptions can last seconds to minutes and may occur multiple times throughout the sleep cycle, leading to fragmented sleep and potentially serious health complications.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
OSA, the most common form of sleep apnea, occurs when the upper airway becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep. This obstruction restricts the flow of air, leading to brief interruptions in breathing.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
CSA results from a failure of the brain to send appropriate signals to the muscles that control breathing. As a result, the effort to breathe becomes diminished or absent during sleep.
Sleep apnea frequently goes undiagnosed because the individual with the condition is asleep when the apneas occur. Patients and their families may observe some of the following frequent symptoms:
- Regular, loud snoring, especially when accompanied by pauses in breathing and gasping or choking sounds
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Frequent morning headaches
- Dry or sore throat upon waking
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night
- Feeling fatigued, having reduced energy levels, and having trouble concentrating during the day
- Mood swings, irritability, and emotional changes
- Awakening multiple times during the night to urinate (nocturia)
Not everyone with sleep apnea will experience all these symptoms. Additionally, some symptoms, such as snoring, can occur independent of sleep apnea. However, if a combination of these symptoms persistently affects a person’s quality of life, a medical evaluation and consultation with a sleep specialist is recommended.
Sleep apnea can have different causes, and identifying the underlying factors is crucial in providing effective treatment. There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). Complex sleep apnea syndrome, which is a combination of both OSA and CSA, is seen much less frequently.
Certain factors contribute to the likelihood of experiencing sleep apnea, including:
- Obesity or excess weight
- A larger neck circumference
- Narrow or obstructed airway due to large tongue, tonsils, or adenoids (also elevates the risk of a collapsed airway)
- Gender and age — men and individuals over the age of 40 are at higher risk
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Certain medical conditions, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease
- Some medications, particularly sedatives and opioids
Untreated sleep apnea can have significant serious health consequences, including increased risk of:
- Cardiovascular problems
- Type 2 diabetes
- Mood disorders
- Weight gain and obesity
- Memory problems and cognitive decline
A comprehensive sleep evaluation, including a detailed medical history, physical examination, and sleep study (polysomnography), is typically required to confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea. Sleep studies are performed by sleep specialists in home studies or at sleep laboratories. Sleep apnea diagnosis is covered by many medical insurance plans.
Successful treatment of sleep apnea varies by the underlying cause. The most common treatment is CPAP, a form of respiratory support delivered through a mask that the patient wears during sleep. This therapy is obtained through pulmonologists and sleep specialists.
However, CPAP can be uncomfortable, and many patients cannot or do not want to consistently wear the therapy. Oral appliances are a viable alternative for many of these patients. Lifestyle changes can also provide significant relief.
Early recognition and appropriate management of sleep apnea can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life and overall health.
Our team of certified orofacial pain experts works collaboratively to develop personalized treatment plans based on each patient’s needs. Our practice does not complete sleep studies — patients bring their completed sleep studies to us. Using data from the sleep study and a thorough physical exam and medical history we design a customized treatment plan. Therapies we offer include customized oral airway appliances and medication management. We also help identify habit and lifestyle changes that can reduce the occurrence of apneas.
The severity of sleep apnea can vary from disruptive to life-threatening. Facial Pain Specialists provides various treatment options, working with individuals and their referring providers to have successful, restful outcomes.
Other Sleep Disorders
Snoring is typically caused by the vibration of tissues in the throat and nasal passages during sleep. Snoring becomes a problem when it becomes disruptive or results in daytime sleepiness or irritability.
If over-the-counter treatments are unsuccessful or the individual exhibits other symptoms that may indicate sleep apnea, medical intervention should be considered. In addition to lifestyle changes (such as adjusting sleep positions and reducing weight), we may recommend a custom oral appliance to help reduce or eliminate snoring.
Bruxism (Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching)
Bruxism involves involuntary grinding of the teeth or clenching of the jaw. It often occurs while sleeping. This habit can cause jaw pain and teeth problems.
Symptoms of bruxism may include disrupted sleep, headaches, or facial pain, especially in the morning; earaches; painful or loose teeth; sore jaw muscles; or pain when eating. Clicking or popping sounds, or a locked jaw may be signs of a more serious complication, TMJ disorder. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact our office for an evaluation. We offer custom oral appliances and, in severe cases, may recommend therapeutic injections as an effective intervention.