If you had sleep apnea, you would know it, right? Maybe, maybe not. Especially if you’re single or sleep alone, you might not even know if you snore, the classic symptom of obstructive sleep apnea.
Not knowing whether you have sleep apnea doesn’t mean that it’s harmless. Undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea takes an often serious toll on your health. Dr. Joseph Z. Yousefian of Yousefian Orthodontics for Children, Teens and Adults in Bellevue, Washington, explains more about sleep apnea and specifically, how an orthodontist can help you diagnose and treat it.
What are symptoms of sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea has two forms: central and obstructive. With central sleep apnea, a less common form of the disorder, your brain doesn’t send your body the right signals to keep breathing.
The more common type of the disorder is obstructive sleep apnea. When you have this type of sleep apnea, your throat muscles relax and block your airway, causing you to periodically stop breathing.
You may gasp to start breathing again, which causes the snoring sound that is so characteristic of sleep apnea. Other symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Being exceptionally sleepy during the daytime
- Having frequent headaches, especially in the morning
- A dry mouth or throat upon awakening
- Mood changes, especially irritability
- High blood pressure
- Diminished sex drive
The more of these symptoms you have, the more likely it is that you might have sleep apnea.
Risk factors for sleep apnea
Certain risk factors make some people are more likely to develop sleep apnea. These include:
- Older age
- Being overweight or obese
- Illnesses associated with excess weight, such as polycystic ovary syndrome
- Narrow airways or enlarged tonsils
- Chronic nasal congestion
- High blood pressure
You may need to get a full medical examination to see if you have sleep apnea, as well as to address any underlying conditions.
What if you do nothing?
You might think that nothing will happen if you ignore sleep apnea. But unfortunately, if you don’t treat sleep apnea, you may experience the following:
- Heart disease
- Poor performance at work or school
- Increased risk of accidents
- Complications with medications and surgery
- Higher risk of eye conditions such as glaucoma
- Possibly, an increased risk of COVID-19
Treating your sleep apnea is important because the risks of not breathing well during your sleep have cumulative effects over time.
How orthodontic devices can treat sleep apnea
Although the most common treatment devices for sleep apnea are called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), the compliance with using these devices is generally pretty low. One study found that non-compliance with CPAP treatment is as high as 83 percent. Not only do most people find it uncomfortable to wear a CPAP device, but even those who attempt to use it do so incorrectly.
Oral devices can also help alleviate sleep apnea by moving the jaw forward to keep your throat open.
In addition, teledontics is a non-surgical technique developed by Dr. Yousefian. It works to expand your upper and lower jaw to create more space for your tongue in your mouth, while also expanding your nasal cavity to allow for more airflow.
If you believe that you might have sleep apnea, call Yousefian Orthodontics for Children, Teens and Adults or request an appointment online.