By Larry Pribyl, D.D.S.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Apnea means the cessation of breathing, so sleep apnea is the cessation of breathing while you are sleeping. The airway in the back of the throat closes off and breathing is stopped. In order for it to be called an apneic event, breathing has to be stopped for a minimum of 10 seconds. However, it can go on for as long as 20-40 or more seconds before breathing again. Needless to say, the longer the apneic event, the worse the apnea.
The airway is like a tube or a garden hose. If you bend the garden hose all the way over so there is no water coming through, that is the apneic event. When the garden hose is straightened again, the breathing returns to normal. This goes back and forth all night long. The more times it happens, the worse the apnea.
Is Sleep Apnea Found Only in Adults?
Sleep apnea is diagnosed more in adults than children but it knows no boundaries. Children’s hospitals have reported children who have had apnea from birth. It is not very common, but does exist. Children of any age can develop sleep apnea. With an increase in obesity in our country, there is a corresponding increase in children with apnea. The Journal of Pediatrics published a study in June 2014 which states that chronically curtailed sleep in infancy and early childhood is associated with an increase in body fat by age seven.
Does Sleep Apnea Go Away?
It is not common but if the sleep apnea is mild and a person takes a proactive role in dieting, exercise and participates in good sleep hygiene, they may be able to reduce their sleep apnea to a sub-clinical level. Sleep apnea needs to be managed with either CPAP therapy or an oral sleep appliance just like wearing glasses or contacts manages your poor eyesight.
Can a Nightguard for Bruxism
Manage My Sleep Apnea?
Mouthguards and nightguards (splints) are designed for tooth protection, not airway protection. In fact, studies have shown that on occasion these guards can make apnea and snoring worse. You need to be careful if you are wearing a nightguard. If you are relying on it to help with your sleep apnea, you may want to get a sleep study with a nightguard in place to evaluate its effectiveness.
Will My Dental Insurance
Cover My Sleep Appliance?
No. Dental insurance only covers dental procedures and a sleep apnea appliance is a medical device treating a medical condition. Your medical health insurance will more than likely pay at least a portion of the cost of an oral sleep appliance. One of the key factors in getting coverage is obtaining a letter of medical necessity from your primary care physician. A dentist needs the referral from the medical doctor to legally make a sleep appliance.
How Do I Know if I Have Sleep Apnea?
The best way to diagnose sleep apnea is to have a Polysomnography. The patient goes to a sleep lab where they spend the night. Their sleep is monitored and their apnea events counted. There are leads and wires attached to several parts of the body. Brain activity, sleep patterns, muscle activity, grinding and clenching, oxygen levels, apnea events and several other factors are monitored as you sleep.
Besides Using a CPAP Machine,
What Else Can I Do?
An alternative to the cumbersome Bi-PAP or CPAP machine is an oral sleep appliance. Impressions are taken of the teeth and a custom made appliance is fitted. The appliance works by pulling the lower jaw forward and with that comes the tongue and the airway is opened.
We Can Help!
Call our office and schedule an appointment for a consultation: 816-795-1000.