Sleep Apnea Treatment for All Ages
A good night’s sleep is one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Not getting enough sleep, or not reaching the REM sleep, can have negative effects on your body, and can also affect your thinking, concentration or mood. Being able to breathe properly while asleep helps ensure a night of full rest, but many people have some sort of trouble breathing while asleep, such as snoring. While snoring can be attributed to several different factors, such as obesity, allergies, congestion, or family medical history, it could also be a sign of a sleep disorder known as sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that has three different types. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is caused by the relaxing of muscles and soft tissue in the throat while sleeping that blocks the airway, or by abnormalities in the bone structure of the airways. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is caused by brain or nervous system issues related to the control of breathing. Mixed sleep apnea, aka complex sleep apnea, is a combination of the two and is generally more serious.
Symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud or frequent snoring
- Pauses in breathing while asleep
- Choking or gasping for breath while asleep
- Insomnia (trouble falling asleep or frequently waking up)
- Tiredness or lack of energy during the day
- Irritability or mood swings
What Are Some Orthodontic Treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
While an ENT or sleep specialist is required to properly diagnose sleep apnea, orthodontists are in a unique position to identify sleep-related breathing disorders in patients of all ages due to their expertise in facial growth and development. They are also trained to guide the growth of various facial structures in younger patients. Treatment depends on the type, severity, and causes of the condition. There are a few different orthodontic strategies that can help, including:
- A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. This is the most common treatment for OSA. This machine uses a breathing mask and forced air pressure to keep the airway from closing while sleeping.
- Orthodontic treatments for expanding the upper jaw or upper arch can help manage OSA. This can also help with teeth grinding, jaw clenching, or other habits associated with sleep apnea.
- A Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD), also known as a Mandibular Advancement Splint (MAS). This works like a brace that pushes the jaw and tongue forward to expand the airway. Each device is custom-made to ensure proper fit and effectiveness in keeping the airway open.
- Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA) is a surgical procedure that repositions the upper and lower jaw to enlarge the airways. While this is usually for patients who suffer from moderate to severe OSA, the majority of patients who undergo this procedure have a significant reduction or elimination of symptoms.