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Sleep Apnea and Oral Airway Appliances

Rodney Baier, DDS
September 18, 2023

Were you lying in bed last night listening to someone you care about snore heavily and struggle to breathe? Or, were you the one that has their mind racing about whether or not you’ll keep someone you love up as they worry about you instead? Even if your answer is no, it’s common for someone with Sleep Apnea to be completely unaware that they are snoring at all.

Sleep Apnea and Symptoms:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a disorder in which a someone’s body is making their best efforts to breathe but eventually stops breathing while they sleep due to the tissues in their throat collapsing and cutting off their airway. Since these periods of stopped breathing are for 10 seconds or more and can occur dozens or hundreds of times per hour, the person with Sleep Apnea will find that they are experiencing multiple symptoms.Some common Sleep Apnea symptoms include gasping and even choking during sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, and headaches in the morning. If their nightly struggle continues, increased blood pressure and heart strain become an even greater concern as their body repeatedly goes in to a fight or flight response in order to reinstate their breathing throughout each night. Over time, this may wear out the heart, leading to heart disease or stroke.

Who does Sleep Apnea Affect?:

Sleep Apnea can affect anyone regardless of their demographic. However, there are a few factors which increase the chances you’ll be affected.

  • Family History of OSA since a hereditary link has been found
  • Mouth Breathing during Sleep
  • Large Neck Circumference
  • Excess Weight with fat deposits around the chin and neck
  • Alcohol or Sedative Use
  • Smoking
  • Being over 40 Years of Age
  • Having enlarged tonsils or adenoids (most common cause of Sleep Apnea in children!)
  • Jaw structure in which the lower jaw is undersized compared to the upper jaw

Diagnosis and Treatment:

If you or a loved one has several risk factors above, it is important to mention these to Dr. Baier at your appointment. During your oral exam is he able to identify key markings typically present in those experiencing Sleep Apnea. These include scalloping on your tongue, grinding (especially on your front teeth), and morning dry mouth from sleeping with your mouth open.Based on evaluation and your symptoms, Dr. Baier can then help guide & refer you to the proper people within his team of airway driven focused professionals. Further evaluation with an ENT through a sleep study is often required to determine whether your customized treatment plan requires a C-PAP, oral airway appliance, surgery, or other therapy attempts.

Oral Airway Appliance Therapy:

If your treatment requires an oral airway appliance, Dr. Baier will work with you to create a custom and quality fit. These mouth appliances are worn only at night to help bring adequate air intake by preventing the collapse of your tongue and soft tissues in the back of your throat. They fit similarly to a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer and keep your jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway.

Lifestyle Adjustments to Increase Treatment Success:

Is your first thought that you would like to try and naturally address existing health issues after the diagnosis? This is a great way to improve your overall condition and possibly help your Sleep Apnea. Discuss your options with your doctor to see if sleeping on your side, losing weight, limiting smoking & alcohol, and/or avoiding sedatives may help. Dr. Baier and his team of Atlanta based airway driven focused professionals all share the same patient-centered practices as his own. If you have any questions or when you are ready to set up your consultation our Dental Office in Sandy Springs, GA. We look forward to hearing from you!

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