What Causes Sleep Apnea? By Dr. Dan Whiting on March 15, 2017

A man sleepingHere at Smiles For Life, we take a holistic approach to dentistry. In other words, we think that your dental health can impact your general wellness and vice versa. This why we always stress good overall lifestyle choices and health practices to our patients. This focus on total wellness sets us apart from many dental practices in the Bridgewater area.

Case in point, we do our best to help patients who suffer from sleep apnea. Many people assume that sleep apnea just involves a lot of snoring, but that's not the whole story at all. There's a dental health component to consider in some cases. Let's take a moment to consider what sleep apnea is, what causes it to happen, and what treatments are available for the condition.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea refers to the interruption of normal breathing during sleep. These short pauses can occur dozens and even hundreds of times a night. Heavy snoring may be part of the problem or a symptom of the issue, but it is not the whole problem.

Over time, sleep apnea can rob you of restful sleep, causing fatigue, depression, hypertension, and other health issues.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) – Obstructive sleep apnea means that your breathing interruptions are the result of physical blockages of the airways in your nose or mouth.

  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) – Central sleep apnea means that your brain is not sending the proper signals to the muscles in your body that help with breathing.

  • Complex Sleep Apnea – Complex sleep apnea involves a combination of OSA and CSA factors.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of the condition.

Common Causes of Sleep Apnea

The most common causes of sleep apnea include the following:

  • Breathing Obstructions Within the Mouth – There are many issues with the mouth that can cause breathing obstructions. This includes problems with the soft palate, the tongue, your breathing passages, and so forth. These anatomical blockages can be severe in some cases.

  • Poor Dental Alignment – The position of your upper teeth and lower teeth can have a serious impact on your bite. These issues can also lead to problems breathing while you are asleep.

  • Injuries to the Brain – If you have experienced a serious injury to the brain or trauma to the head, this can lead to unexpected problems with your central nervous system, sleep apnea among them.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

These factors can increase the risk or the severity of your sleep apnea:

  • Obesity – People who are obese may have issues with neck thickness and other anatomical issues that may affect breathing passages.

  • Deviated Septum – A deviated septum can lead to a number of health issues, including a higher risk of sleep apnea.

  • Smoking – Smokers tend to run a greater risk of experiencing sleep apnea than non-smokers.

  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption – People who drink in excess may be putting themselves at risk for sleep apnea among other health problems.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Treating sleep apnea can take many forms. Sometimes a small dental mouthpiece can open up breathing passages. Other times a minor procedure can lift the soft palate out of your airways. CPAP machines are a standard treatment to promote proper breathing. For serious sleep apnea, oral surgery and general surgery may be required.

We'll perform a proper examination during you visit to identify the root cause of your sleep apnea and develop an effective plan of action.

Learn More About Sleep Apnea

To learn more about sleep apnea and how it can impact your overall health and wellness, contact our cosmetic and restorative dentistry center today. Here at Smiles For Life, we can work with you to determine a smart solution for your bout of sleep apnea.

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Dentists at Smiles for Life Dental Care

Smiles for Life Dental Care

The team of highly trained doctors at Smiles for Life wants to help you achieve and maintain a healthy smile for a lifetime. Because we want every patient to have access to the advanced treatments offered at our practice, we accept many insurance and financing options, including: 

  • Medicare 
  • Compassionate Finance™
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  • LendingClub®
  • Smile Rewards 

To get started, call our Bridgewater office at (540) 828-2312 or request an appointment online.

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