Dr. Jaime Breziner, Dr. David Vasquez and Dr. Garry Bloch of La Jolla Family Smile Design are committed to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of problems affecting the teeth and gums. You may be surprised to learn that we are also at the forefront of the detection and treatment of a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by repeated brief cessations in breath that occur when the upper airway becomes blocked during sleep. Dentists are often the first healthcare providers to discover signs of obstructive sleep apnea; they do so by simply looking into a patient’s mouth. Our advanced knowledge of the anatomy of the mouth helps us catch cases that may otherwise go unnoticed.
Understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the soft tissues in the rear of the throat collapse during sleep, partially or completely blocking the airway and interrupting the normal flow of breath. The breathing interruptions can last a few seconds up to a full minute or more, and they can occur hundreds of times per night.
Chronic cycles of decreased oxygenation are extremely dangerous to overall health, raising the risk of problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. A chronic lack of quality sleep also takes a toll on mental health, contributing to chronic daytime exhaustion, mood swings, anxiety and depression.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Signs and Symptoms
General warning signs of sleep apnea include snoring and choking or gasping noises during sleep. Snoring occurs when the flow of air through the mouth is blocked, and choking or gasping noises indicate the body has resumed breathing after a pause.
Signs of sleep apnea that may be detected during an oral exam include worn tooth surfaces, broken teeth and inflamed or receding gums. These clues suggest involuntarily grinding or clenching the teeth at night as a signal to the brain to partially wake up and take a breath. Other oral health signs that indicate possible sleep apnea include a small jaw, a tongue with scalloped edges or redness in the throat.
If we notice any of these clues during one of your routine exams, we will ask you some simple screening questions to determine your individual risk for sleep apnea. We can also refer you to an appropriate sleep specialist for an official screening and sleep study. Once you are formally diagnosed, our team can ensure you get the best treatment for your sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is a popular way to treat sleep apnea. A machine blows pressurized air into a mask worn over the nose and mouth to keep the airway open. But CPAP machines are often criticized for being loud, bulky and disruptive to sleep.
As an alternative, our team can provide you with a customized dental appliance that shifts and supports your jaw to keep your airway open during sleep. There are a few different types of appliances, and we can recommend the most effective solution for you. We will provide fitting and adjustments for the appliances and can monitor you over time to ensure your appliance works. We will also coordinate with your other healthcare providers to track your progress.
Learn More About Sleep Apnea
If you have questions about sleep apnea detection or treatment, La Jolla Family Smile Design is here for you. Please give us a call or send us an email to request more information from our team.