Sleep apnea can go undiagnosed for years
It’s been a long day, even a longer week and finally you get to rest. Exhausted, you fall into bed after an evening of relaxation (or at least a few minutes of downtime) and you are out for the count in a comfortable bed snuggled up with your pillow. What happens next could threaten your life.
As muscles relax throughout your body, the tongue falls backward and throat muscles relax occluding the airway to your lungs. Inhaling is impossible while the passageway is blocked. Although the diaphragm works hard, no air can pass through the occluded opening.
You have obstructive sleep apnea, a widely undiagnosed condition that affects millions of unsuspecting sleepers. As the body is deprived of oxygen due to the blockage, the brain wakes you up briefly to re-position and breathe. Unfortunately, this routine repeats itself as much as 60 times an hour in some cases. With each episode you become more exhausted from disturbed sleep and waking becomes burdensome. Mounting seconds of decreased oxygen take a toll on the entire body, some changes affecting your life forever.
Researchers have found that over time, neurons (nerves) in the brain that control wakefulness are altered. Structural changes in brain matter reduce neuro-cognitive performance and daytime exhaustion leaves you cranky with your brain in a fog. In addition, decreased oxygen to the brain has been linked to mini-strokes as arteries constrict.
As the blocked airway prohibits oxygen from entering the lungs, vessels supplying oxygen to the heart respond by becoming more narrow and the risk of heart attack increases. With each apneic episode the heart beats faster trying to oxygenate the body. The narrow arteries make the heart work harder to maintain adequate circulation. This increases blood pressure. High blood pressure, the silent killer, is often the cause of stroke. Frequent stress on the heart can cause it to enlarge, working less efficiently.
Sleep apnea victims have been shown to have increased resistance to insulin, a distinctive feature of diabetics.
Healthy people can have obstructive sleep apnea. Until diagnosed, many are unaware of this life threatening medical problem. Lack of oxygen caused by frequent apneic episodes contributes to many health issues.. During a routine dental exam, your dentist will ask questions about your sleep habits. The answers you give can help determine the presence of sleep apnea. If obstructive sleep apnea might be causing disturbances in your sleep, a referral can be made to your doctor who will then schedule a sleep study for you. A simple sleep study done at home or in a sleep lab can diagnose the presence or absence of sleep apnea. If the study reveals mild obstructive sleep apnea, your dentist can design a custom made mouthguard that will position your jaw forward and down. This position opens the airway, allowing air to flow freely.
White Oak Family Dentistry in Garner, NC can help determine the presence of sleep apnea during your routine dental exam. What you don’t know CAN hurt you. Don’t risk the complications of a blocked airway. Call 919.986.0151 or schedule an appointment online today at White Oak Family Dentistry.