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Why many people have sleep apnea and how you can resolve it

More than 25 million people in the United States have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA),  which is the most common form of sleep apnea.  

Persons suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea typically experience frequent pauses in breathing while asleep. OSA is caused when muscles in the back of the throat relax,  blocking the airway.  

As the airway becomes completely or partially blocked, breathing cessation of around  10-20 seconds occurs. This leads to lower blood oxygen levels sending the brain into a  panic. This immediately stimulates the body to restart breathing. Most people who have obstructive sleep apnea awake briefly and they do not notice or remember what happened. It may occur more than 30 times an hour, all during the night can severely disrupt sleep cycles.  

All of this constant waking and sleeping brings with it serious health issues. Many  obstructive sleep apnea sufferers have the following conditions:  

  1. Hypertension  
  2. Insomnia  
  3. Mood instability.  
  4. Depression  
  5. Anxiety.  
  6. Weight gain.  
  7. Type-2 Diabetes  
  8. Asthma  
  9. Acid reflux

Additionally, due to a lack of deep sleep, apnea sufferers are known to be involved in car accidents. People with sleep apnea are five times more likely to fall asleep while driving and be involved in car accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety  Administration estimates 1 that between 2005 and 2009 drowsy driving was responsible  for an annual average of  

  • 83,000 crashes
  • 37,000 injury crashes
  • 886 fatal crashes (846 fatalities in 2014)
  • Estimates that up there were around 6,000 fatal car accidents due to drowsy driving. *** 

Children who have OSA typically have enlarged tonsils or adenoids which can be surgically removed. That usually resolves sleep apnea symptoms in children. Causes  for adults with obstructive sleep apnea vary but include:  

  • Age (40 and older)
  • Obesity
  • Structural deformities that obstruct the airways
  • Decrease in muscle tone

A physician may recommend a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) for moderate to severe sleep apnea. This machine has a mask attached by a hose that regulates breathing during sleep.  

For mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea, All Smiles Bethesda offers a customized  Snore Guard for our patients. Snore Guards are an oral appliance designed to keep the lower jaw in a forward direction while you sleep. This positioning moves the tongue away from the back of the throat and decreases the potential for obstruction of the airway. This dental treatment can be a life-saving device for many patients.  

If you suspect that you have obstructive sleep apnea, please see a physician immediately. Prolonged and untreated sleep apnea can cause serious health issues and may even be fatal.  

All Smiles Bethesda has the most efficient systems for cosmetic and preventative dentistry. We can work with your physician and customize a Snore Guard for you. If you would like to schedule an appointment at our family dentistry, please call us at  301-984-9646 or email us at info@allsmilesbethesda.com  or lorraine@allsmilesbethesda.com.  

*** More on drowsy driving can be found at the CDC website. 

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