Many people with sleep apnea do not know they have this potentially serious health problem. Identifying it as early as possible and getting treatment for it can spare you a lot of health problems – and give you a longer life.
Although the term sleep apnea does not sound threatening, it should not be ignored. What is happening is that while you are sleeping, you stop breathing – possibly hundreds of times in an hour and many hundreds of times in a single night. These pauses in your breath can last a few seconds to a few minutes.
The danger of sleep apnea is that the lack of oxygen damages your organs – including your heart and brain. Eventually, if not treated, it can result in early death.
The breathing problem is often caused by being overweight or obese. As you sleep, the tissues in your throat relax and can block your airway. As your blood oxygen levels get lower, your brain will try to wake you up to take a breath.
Your partner will likely be the first to notify you of a problem with your breathing. They may tell you that you snore at night and that your breathing is erratic sometimes. You may also wake up momentarily gasping for air – but you will not remember it in the morning.
You may wake up with headaches, pain in your jaw, memory problems during the day, inability to focus, irritability, and more. Most likely, you will also feel tired because the breathing problems prevent you from entering into REM sleep – which is necessary to get refreshed.
A dentist is often the first person to recognize the presence of sleep apnea. Our Chula Vista and Lakeside dentists are trained to identify the problem.
There are several things that the dentist looks for. The first thing will be the condition of your teeth. Many people with this sleep disorder grind their teeth – called bruxism.
Other possible symptoms include a small jaw, scalloped edges on your tongue, and a sore or red throat – caused by a lot of snoring. The dentist will also ask about the other symptoms mentioned above.
If we think sleep apnea is present, we will recommend getting a sleep study. The study is the only way to get an official diagnosis – and a recommended treatment.
After you receive a diagnosis, our team will be glad to help you with some treatment options.