Common symptoms of Sleep Apnea and the importance of seeking prompt treatment

Occasional snoring is common and usually not a cause for concern. However, habitual snorers, commonly defined as those who snore for three or more nights in a given week, may have an underlying condition that requires prompt care, such as obstructive sleep apnea. Even “primary” snorers, those whose snoring is not secondary to a medical condition, should seek out the expertise of Dr. David A. Lamothe of Smyrna Dental in Smyrna, Georgia.

Routine snoring can be quite destructive to our patients’ relationships with their partners and other family members. While the snorer may sleep through the night, others in the household may struggle to get a good night’s rest due to that persistent, grating, and disruptive sound. 

The root of the problem 

Snoring is defined as the sound made when the air that passes through your throat vibrates against the tongue, palate, and surrounding tissues. Snoring is among the most common ways in which obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) manifests itself.However, when those with OSA snore, the sound produced may be particularly loud and raucous. Notably, OSA sufferers also have noticeable pauses in their breathing, and snoring may stop for a while. This is a particularly scary situation because the individual with OSA stops breathing in these moments. These pauses last 10 seconds or longer and repeatedly occur dozens of times throughout the night. 

And so here is the distinction between “simple” snoring and something more nefarious: apnea. The latter condition is caused by oral tissues that relax to such a degree that they block the airway. As a result, air can’t pass through, and OSA patients are unable to breathe throughout the night. This process can be quite startling for partners. In fact, the patient may even not realize they are struggling to breathe throughout the night yet, their spouse or partner sees that struggle — time and again, the sufferer awakens with a loud gasp and a snort.

Symptoms of sleep apnea

Since patients are unable to enjoy quality rest, they often experience a range of symptoms that also affect the quality of their lives. Potential alarm bells for OSA include: 

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Irritability and mood changes 
  • Frequent sore throat and hoarseness
  • Chronic headaches 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Memory impairment and other cognitive challenges

In addition to increasing the risk of on-the-job and road accidents due to persistent fatigue, obstructive sleep apnea also places significant strain on the heart and other organs. Patients with OSA are at increased risk of developing hypertension, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), stroke, and sudden death. We are not telling you all of this to scare you — we encourage you to reach out to our team immediately should this resonate with you or a loved one. We at Smyrna Dental can work in tandem with your family physician, sleep specialist, and other members of your healthcare team to pinpoint the true nature of your troubling symptoms.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in 2006, dentists are uniquely qualified to be on the front line in the fight against mild-to-moderate and severe sleep apnea and sleep-disordered breathing. With an accurate diagnosis in hand, our dental team has advanced training in sleep medicine to develop an effective treatment plan for those with mild-to-moderate and severe sleep apnea. Serious symptoms and conditions associated with sleep apnea can be resolved promptly, and complications can be avoided.

Treatment options

Treatment plans are based on the presence of sleep apnea, the type of apnea, and the severity of the condition. A few of the many options that are available to those with diagnosed mild-to-moderate and severe sleep apnea include: 

  • Oral appliance therapy: Custom appliances, such as mandibular advancement devices, are worn to reposition the jaw and adjust the tissues. So, they no longer block the airway during sleep.
  • Lifestyle adjustments: We work with patients to minimize or eliminate the factors associated with an increased risk of developing sleep apnea. For instance, moderate weight loss can considerably ease airway constriction.

For those with more advanced sleep apnea, CPAP therapy, continuous positive airway pressure, may be prescribed by a medical sleep specialist.  With CPAP therapy, air is delivered as a patient sleeps via a nasal mask connected to a CPAP machine. However, patients who can’t get used to CPAP therapy may also benefit from a discreet and easy-to-wear oral appliance as prescribed by Dr. Lamothe at Smyrna Dental.

Treatment for sleep apnea in Smyrna, GA

We look forward to discussing your options to get healthy and restore a good night’s sleep. Contact Smyrna Dental at (678) 374-3764 to schedule an appointment today. You should never “sleep” on getting the care you or a family member needs to resolve sleep-disordered breathing!