Studies show at least one third of the population over the age of fifteen is at risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition that causes afflicted individuals to stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night as they sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is considered a serious health problem that can lead to severe and even fatal health complications if untreated. The key to successful treatment of OSA is keeping patients’ airways open and unobstructed throughout the night. Dr. Wayde Fawcett offers several options for treatment of OSA that can help reduce or even eliminate symptoms of the condition.
What Causes Snoring?
The most common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea is loud snoring. While not all snoring indicates sleep apnea, snoring is caused by vibration of the soft palate, which results from restricted airways while sleeping. Most often, the relaxed position of the tongue and throat during sleep is responsible for limiting the passage of air.
Symptoms of Snoring and Sleep Apnea
When airways become fully obstructed by the soft tissues and breathing is interrupted for a period of time, serious disturbances to sleep patterns and blood oxygenation levels can occur. As the brain becomes progressively deprived of oxygen, it eventually sends a signal to the body to immediately unblock the airway. Typically, the individual will snort or gasp in response, temporarily alleviating the blockage and restoring more adequate airflow. In many cases, pauses in breathing can last 10 seconds and even much longer. When this cycle repeats throughout the night, the condition is diagnosed as obstructive sleep apnea.
The interrupted sleep, oxygen deprivation, and systemic shock caused by obstructive sleep apnea can result in mood swings, exhaustion, headaches, and difficulty functioning, in addition to a broad spectrum of serious, sometimes fatal health risks.
Health complications caused or worsened by sleep apnea can include:
- Persistent fatigue
- Headaches in the morning
- High blood pressure
- Mental health issues
- Weight gain
- Acid reflux
- Liver disease
- Heart attack
- Sudden cardiac death
Obstructive sleep apnea is a treatable condition; however, standard treatment methods like the CPAP (constant positive airway pressure) machine can be disruptive and cumbersome when trying to sleep. At our practice, Dr. Fawcett offers alternative methods of oral treatment, which are typically better tolerated. With effective oral treatment, the symptoms and health problems associated with OSA can be reduced and, in some cases, entirely eliminated. At the Fawcett Center for Dentistry, P.A., we offer the following options for treatment of OSA:
Thornton Adjustable Positioner® (TAP)
The Thornton Adjustable Positioner®, or TAP® device, is an oral device designed to be worn during sleep. The TAP® device can maintain proper jaw positioning to clear soft tissue obstruction and facilitate optimal breathing. During wear, the adjustable TAP® appliance can prevent the lower jaw from falling open, which keeps the airway clear. Patients who are candidates for this effective method of treatment can experience a reduction in both snoring and symptoms related to OSA, often eliminating the need for surgery or bothersome treatment systems. The custom appliance is similar to a bite guard and patients generally report the device as being comfortable and easy to wear.
TAP® 3 Elite
An advanced version of the TAP® device, the TAP® 3 Elite offers enhanced adjustment capabilities, improved durability, and added comfort when compared to more basic TAP® devices. During a consultation appointment, Dr. Fawcett can evaluate your symptoms and determine which device may be best suited for treating your OSA.
Contact the Fawcett Center for Dentistry, P.A.
For more information about obstructive sleep apnea and the effective treatments we offer, please contact our practice to schedule an appointment.