What is obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)?
Obstructive sleep apnoea may affect as many as millions of people every year, but since it occurs at night during one’s sleep, people are generally unaware they are suffering. Thus, it goes undiagnosed.
This common disorder results from the tongue and soft palate collapsing onto the back of the throat while you sleep. This obstructs the upper airway, causing airflow to be restricted or completely stop; often for over 10 seconds at a time. Your brain signals to your body that there is a lack of oxygen, causing it to release adrenaline so you wake up – usually with a gasp for air, snore or snort. Your airway will regain tonus and open, forcing the obstruction in your throat to clear, at which point your breathing will begin as normal gain. This is an obstructive apnoea; the process repeats itself repeatedly throughout the night. In severe cases, some people can lose breath for as much as 40 seconds over 60 times an hour.
If you’ve any reason to suspect you may have OSA, it’s important that you seek diagnosis and, if required, symptom management. Not only can this protect you from its adverse effects on your teeth, but can also help you avoid a host of very serious health concerns like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and diabetes.
Manage sleep apnoea in Pennant Hills
There are many reasons why one may develop this common breathing disorder. Below, you can find some of the most common causes of sleep apnoea:
- Your anatomy (size and positioning of your jaw, neck, tonsils, tongue and other soft tissues in your mouth)
- Some medications (especially sedatives)
- Drinking alcohol
- Having the condition run in your family
- Sleeping on your back
- Thyroid issues
Below, you can find a few common signs and symptoms of this sleep apnoea to be on the lookout for:
- tiredness/fatigue and irritability during the day
- daytime sleepiness
- loud snoring
- frequently waking throughout the night to go to the toilet or get a drink
- regular morning headaches
- worn teeth caused by clenching or grinding of teeth
- poor memory
- reflux problems
- dark circles or bags under or around the eyes
- sore or dry throat
If you or someone in your family is experiencing any of the signs or symptoms of sleep apnoea mentioned above, it’s a great idea to seek professional advice and care without delay.
Sleep apnoea can have long-term ill effects on your health and wellbeing. At Pennant Hills Dental Centre, it’s important to us that our patients can live their best lives. If you believe you’re suffering from sleep apnoea, we can help set an official diagnosis and management plan in motion for you.
- Lifestyle changes: Typically, lifestyle changes can be the first avenue to explore when keeping your sleep apnoea at bay. These changes may include, for example, exercising more to maintain a healthy weight or reducing your alcohol intake.
- Sleep studies: Our Pennant Hills dentists can work together with a sleep physician of your choice to conduct a sleep study to determine the severity of your sleep apnoea. Equipped with this information, it can be easier to suggest the best symptom management pathway for you. There are many non-surgical or invasive procedure alternatives to traditional snoring and sleep apnoea therapies.
- Oral appliances: For those who suffer from mild-to-moderate sleep apnoea, the best treatment may be a dental device, such as a mandibular advancement splint. You can wear this device while you sleep. It opens your airway by bringing the lower jaw, tongue and associated soft tissue forward, stopping it from collapsing during your sleep. This appliance maintains the patency of your airway and, as a result, reduces or eliminates snoring, apnoeic events and the teeth grinding associated with it.
Children are not supposed to snore. They’re also not supposed to be mouth breathers unless they have a cold or are exhausted. Mouth breathing and snoring in children is one of the most common reasons for consultations with paediatric ENT specialists. To understand why snoring is a problem, you need to appreciate why snoring occurs. The actual noise of snoring is made because there is a blockage in the breathing. This blockage reduces the amount of oxygen that gets into the blood, which can have various negative effects, such as:
- triggering brain signals that affect sleep patterns and quality
- association with hearing difficulties
- teeth grinding and jaw clenching
- learning problems (due to fatigue and hearing problems)
- delayed or less than optimal facial growth and dental development
- recurrent tonsillitis
- more chance of requiring orthodontic treatment in the future
To provide the most effective treatment to help with snoring in children, it’s important to determine and treat whatever is affecting their ability to breathe clearly. For example, an under-grown, small jaw can mean a small airway that’s more easily blocked when a sleeping jaw drops. And compressed and crowded throat tissues can mean choking while asleep, hundreds of times a night. Often, our dentists will recommend an assessment by an ears nose and throat specialist ENT to assess your child’s tonsils and adenoids. They may also recommend early orthodontic intervention to make unobstructed nasal breathing possible.