What is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?


Obstructive sleep apnea, abbreviated OSA, is a medical condition where you stop breathing for periods of 10 seconds or longer during your sleep. If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, you will experience multiple periods of non-breathing episodes throughout your sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea can be categorized as mild, moderate or severe, depending on the intensity and frequency of your non-breathing episodes. If you’re suffering from severe OSA, you could experience as many a few hundred non-breathing episodes each and every night. As you can see, OSA is a serious medical condition that warrants proper diagnosis and treatment.

Why is obstructive sleep apnea a problem?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious medical condition which compromises your overall health and well-being. Those suffering from OSA will experience multiple episodes of non-breathing throughout the day. These episodes of non-breathing can cause you to wake up and gasp for air in the middle of your sleep. This prevents you from getting the deep sleep that your bodies requires. As a result, you are left feeling tired and fatigued during the day. Plus, untreated OSA can be a precursor to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression. In its most extreme cases, severe OSA can be fatal as you may fail to come out from a non-breathing episode.

What are the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a very common medical condition. It is estimated that more than 18 million Americans suffer from OSA. Unfortunately, the majority of these people are also unaware of their condition. After all, you are sleep and diagnosing your condition can be challenging during this time. The most obvious sign of obstructive sleep apnea is nighttime snoring. Other common signs of OSA include:

  • Feeling tired throughout the day
  • Being irritable
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Frequent morning headaches
  • Falling asleep behind the wheel
  • Diminished productivity
  • A generalized decrease in your quality of life

If you suspect that you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, talk to your physician or dentist. You will be referred out to complete a sleep test to access your night time breathing. The sleep test can be administered at home or in a sleep lab. Afterwards, a sleep physician will analyze your sleep test study results to determine if you suffer from OSA. If you are diagnosed with OSA, you will be referred to a physician or a dentist for proper treatment.

How do you treat OSA?

Treatment for obstructive sleep apena ranges from using a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, oral appliances or surgery:

  • CPAP machine: CPAP machines force air into your lungs to ensure that you’re breathing enough Oxygen throughout the night. While very effective, CPAP machines can be loud and uncomfortable for many.
  • Oral Appliance: Oral appliances act to open up your airways throughout the night to allow for better breathing. Oral appliances resemble a large nightguard and work by puling your lower jaw out to open up your airways.
  • Surgery: Surgically altering your airway is an option as well. This is a difficult and painful surgery and is only recommended for the most extreme cases. Surgery results are typically mixed and relapses are not uncommon here.

How can dentists help with OSA?

Example of a mandibular advancement device used to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

Dentists can help with diagnosing as well as treating certain OSA cases. Because dentists spend most of their time looking in your mouth, this gives them an excellent opportunity to screen for airway obstructions. If your dentist suspects that you suffer from sleep apnea, he or she can refer you for to complete a sleep test. The sleep tests will be sent to a sleep trained physician to interpret the results.

In addition to diagnosing, dentists can also help treat mild to moderate sleep apnea cases. Your dentist can fabricate a customized oral appliances if you are unable or unwilling to use a CPAP machine. Oral appliances typically function by re-positioning your tongue to open-up the airways during night time. Generally, oral appliances are much more comfortable than wearing a CPAP machines.

Sleep apnea treatment in Orange County:

Dentists can help with both diagnosing and treating obstructive sleep apnea cases.

If you would like to be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea, give us a call today. You can reach us at (949) 481-2540 or book your consultation online today. During your sleep apnea consultation, which typically takes about 45 minutes, we will evaluate your airways, access your tongue size and position, review your medical history and many other factors. This helps us determine your risk level for OSA. If it is determined that you might be suffering from OSA, we will refer you to a sleep lab to complete a sleep test. Of course, you can take the sleep test at home as well if you are comfortable doing so. For those who test positive for OSA, we will work with you to determine which sleep apnea device best suits your needs. We will then either make you an oral appliance or make appropriate referrals whenever needed. So don’t delay treatment any longer, give us a call to see how we can help you treat your sleep apnea today.