Sleep Apnea: Are there health risks?

Sleep apnea, a condition in which people repeatedly stop breathing while they are asleep, is marked by loud snoring. That sleep apnea symptom is merely an annoyance, but other issues related to the disease have a much greater impact on a patient’s health.

For example, people with sleep apnea have an increased risk of heart attack. Sleep apnea has also been correlated with high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. Sleep apnea can affect your mental health, too, increasing your risk for depression or problems with your memory. The condition can limit your productivity at work, and it may compromise your driving ability.

Most people start to become aware that they have sleep apnea when their snoring disrupts a partner’s sleep. However, sleep apnea is a condition that has dental aspects to it as well. Deviation from the proper positioning of the mouth during sleep contributes to the problem, allowing the soft tissues in the back of the throat to relax to the extent that they obstruct the airway.

As such, a dentist or an oral surgeon may be involved in treatment for sleep apnea.

Dental treatments may include devices that reposition the jaw or tongue during sleep. These approaches are most effective in mild or moderate cases of sleep apnea.

Patients who don’t respond to those more conservative approaches may need to seek a surgical solution. An oral surgeon may need to remove excess tissue at the back of the throat or correct a malocclusion that is contributing to a patient’s sleep apnea.

Certain signs and symptoms may indicate that you have sleep apnea. That list includes morning headaches and sore throats, daytime drowsiness and inconsistent sleep patterns. Before seeking treatment, however, patients should get a conclusive sleep apnea diagnosis by participating in a sleep study. The sleep study will determine what kind of sleep apnea is involved and what treatment is most appropriate.

To learn more about sleep apnea and interventions to address the problem, contact Charlottesville Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Center at 434-295-0911 and schedule your consultation with Dr. Carlos Rafael Ibañez.

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