Sleep Apnoea: how can your dentist help?

If snoring is making you sleepy, you might have sleep apnoea! It’s a condition that anyone can get, and could explain why you’re waking up tired.

Sleep apnoea is a common condition where your throat becomes obstructed while sleeping, blocking your airway. This occurs due to the walls in your throat coming together in your sleep, or the tongue and soft pallet collapsing into the back of the throat, blocking the upper airway. For a doctor to diagnose sleep apnoea, a person will record more than five obstructions (apnoeas) per hour of sleep – with each episode lasting between 10 seconds and two minutes. No wonder you’re so exhausted!

Types of sleep apnoea

There are 3 main types of sleep apnoea that can be diagnosed by your doctor:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) – The most common type, where the throat becomes partially or fully obstructed and blocks the airway
  • Central Sleep Apnoea (CSA) – A rare condition where your brain forgets to send the signal to your body to breathe
  • Mixed Apnoea – A combination of both OSA and CSA

Symptoms of sleep apnoea

It’s estimated that 5% of Australians experience sleep apnoea, and it can affect anyone. However, it is more commonly found in males over 40, and the following have been noted as contributing factors:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking or alcohol
  • Large tonsils (particularly in children)
  • Sleeping medications
  • Nasal congestion
  • Facial bone size or size of muscles in the jaw

Symptoms can be quite ambiguous, which is why the condition often goes undiagnosed. Be on the lookout for:

  • Regular morning headaches, tiredness and fatigue
  • Consistent snoring
  • Frequent wakes through the night
  • Dark circles or bags under the eyes
  • Worn teeth caused by clenching or grinding
  • Depression, moodiness or poor memory

Left untreated, sleep apnoea can put major strain on the heart and cardiovascular system due to the lack of oxygen and large pressure fluctuations in the lungs. This can subject you to larger medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

So how can your dentist help?

We’re here to look after your oral health in full, and that means more than just healthy teeth! So after your doctor has diagnosed you with sleep apnoea, we can provide non-surgical alternatives to assist with the prevention of snoring.

The use of specialised mouthpieces, known as oral appliances, can be an effective method of treating both snoring and sleep apnoea. These open the airways by bringing the lower jaw and base of your tongue forward and away from the soft palate, preventing the upper airway from collapsing during sleep.

We will mould and fit these for you in our clinic, working in cooperation with respiratory or sleep physicians.

Oral appliance therapy has been scientifically proven to be effective in treating snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnoea, and it can be used effectively for people with severe sleep apnoea who can’t tolerate a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine.

Are you ready for a good night’s sleep?

If you or someone you know (or sleep next to, perhaps) has a problem with snoring or sleep apnoea, get in touch with our team and let’s take the first step towards a good night’s sleep!