Sleep Apnea Treatments

Most of us don’t think of snoring as something to be overly concerned with, but frequently loud snoring may be a sign of sleep apnea, a common and potentially serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts as you sleep.

Although sleep apnea is treatable, it often goes unrecognized. Untreated sleep apnea can be dangerous and detrimental to your health, so it’s important to see a doctor if you suspect that you or a loved one might have it.

How Can Dr. Chase Help Me With My Snoring or Sleep Apnea?

Dr. Chase is a premier Arizona Sleep Apnea Dentist who can help you determine whether your snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea.   He has received training for TMJ and Sleep Disorders from hundreds of hours of post grduate education including training at the prestigious Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies earning his Fellowship from this prestigious institute.

Thanks to advances in dental sleep medicine, we can effectively treat patients who suffer from snoring, upper airway resistance, TMJ disorders and sleep apnea.

Dr. Chase works closely with board certified sleep specialists in Phoenix to diagnose and treat snoring and sleep apnea.  This medical model is the most comprehensive approach to treatment.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

The most common type of Sleep Apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Patients suffering from OSA literally stop breathing during sleep, as their breathing airway is obstructed or blocked.  In fact, the word, “apnea” means “without breath.”  When the body is deprived of oxygen, it responds by gagging or gasping for air.  These gasping episodes, or “apneic events,” can last anywhere from 10 – 60 seconds, interrupting the patient’s sleep even though the patient may not fully “wake up.”

These constant arousals explain why OSA patients chronically feel so tired, even after a full night of sleep.  The exact prevalence of OSA is unknown, but most experts agree that OSA is significantly under-diagnosed and under-treated.

What is the cause of OSA?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea occures when your upper airway tissues in your throat colapse and restrict or stop you from breathing for long periods of time during sleep.  The following anatomical conditions may cause you to have OSA:

  • Throat weakness, causing the throat to close during sleep
  • Mis-positioned jaw, often caused by tension in the muscles
  • Fat gathering in and around the throat (often associated with overweight or obesity)
  • Obstruction in the nasal passageway

What are common symptoms of OSA?

Due to the frequent nighttime breathing interruptions, patients will generally start to experience several symptoms which are directly caused by sleep apnea:

  • Snoring
  • Labored breathing while sleeping
  • Episodes of gasping for air during the night
  • Restless sleep and sleeping in unusual positions
  • Chronic morning headaches
  • Chronic fatigue, even after a full night’s sleep
  • Inability to reach deep sleep (this is called Level 3 sleep and is required for growth and healing hormones to be formed and released into the body)
  • High blood pressure (90% of people with hypertension have sleep apnea and 60% of sleep apnea patients develop hypertension)
  • Increased risk for diabetes, heart attack and stroke
  • Personality, alertness, memory, and behavior changes
  • Memory loss
  • Obesity
  • Acid Reflux (G.E.R.D.)

How is OSA diagnosed?

At Arizona TMJ and Sleep Center we refer patients for a consultation with one of the board certified sleep physician with whom we have an established relationship.  A sleep specialist will recommend an appropriate sleep test, the results of which will determine whether the patient has mild, moderate, or severe OSA or other sleep disorder.

In mild to moderate cases of OSA we will most often recommend Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT).  In more severe cases we will recommend a combination of OAT and CPAP or surgical treatment options.

Involving a board certified sleep specialist allows us to provide our patients with optimal care and maximize treatment success.  Being diagnosed and receiving treatment for snoring may not be enough.  An evaluation for OSA by a group of doctors and dentists who are trained in sleep, TMJ and snoring issues is necessary for proper diagnosis.Without a proper analysis of your sleep, you may only be treated for snoring which in many cases is a symptom of a larger problem.

What are the available treatment approaches for OSA?

Non-Surgical Treatments:

Sleep Appliances

Specially made dental appliances called mandibular advancement splints, are a common mode of treatment. Their purpose is to advance the lower jaw slightly, and thereby pull the tongue forward. Typically, a dentist specializing in sleep apnea dentistry is consulted. Such appliances have been proven to be effective in reducing snoring and sleep apnea in cases where the apnea is mild to moderate. Mandibular advancement splints are often tolerated much better than CPAP machines.  There are many different FDA-approved oral appliances we can use to treat sleep-disordered breathing. Regardless of the appliance selected, to be effective, it must be properly customized and precision fit for each patient.

Using state of the art diagnostic technology and results from a sleep study, we can ordinarily determine whether an oral sleep appliance can eliminate the need for CPAP or surgery.

Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP)

This is the form of treatment that is most commonly prescribed for people who suffer from severe OSA. CPAP involves wearing a mask that gives the person a steady stream of air through his nose while he is sleeping. Air flows through your nose and comes down the airway and works somewhat like a ‘splint’ to support the airway as it stays open and avoids collapse.

Unfortunately, while CPAP is a very affective treatment for OSA , many people find that CPAP isn’t  easily tolerated and elect not to wear it every night.  Dr. Chase works to increase this compliance and in some cases elects to do co-therapy with OAT.  When an oral sleep appliance is used in conjunction with CPAP, the pressure of the positive airflow can be decreased, making it more comfortable to sleep with the CPAP mask.