Don’t Overlook Airway Health
Many airway issues originate in the mouth. The most common are sleep breathing disorders (SBD) that encompass snoring, upper airway resistance (UARS) and sleep apnea. Most people think that snoring is normal, but there should never be any noise with sleep. UARS is like a patient is breathing through a thin straw at night, which leads to sleep fragmentation and multiple arousals. The difference between UARS and sleep apnea is that the patient actually stops breathing. With UARS, an obstruction causes an arousal, and then the individual begins breathing again. Other issues include tongue ties, deviated septum in the nose and nasal valve issues.
There is not a good diagnostic tool for proper diagnosis for UARS, as current sleep tests either diagnose a patient with apnea or no apnea. Individuals with UARS are then misdiagnosed as just snoring or idiopathic hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness). In adults, UARS can be successfully treated a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device and even orthodontic expansion.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the tongue falls back in the throat at night and causes a patient to stop breathing or take a partial breath. Left untreated, it can result in heart attacks, strokes or even death. It way cause a patient’s sleep cycle to be disrupted multiple times during the night, which leads to fatigue and daytime sleepiness. OSA is also linked to heartburn, high blood pressure and diabetes. Patients can get tested one of two ways; they can go to a sleep lab and get hooked up with wires while someone watches them sleep, or they can take a home sleep test wearing a watch with a sensor on the chest that monitors breathing, snoring, oxygen levels, sleep cycle and body position.
The most common cause of SBD is not having enough room for the tongue in the mouth. Think of a patient’s airway as the driveway, their mouth as the garage and their tongue as the car. The car needs enough room in the garage so that it isn’t falling back into the driveway. Our tongue needs enough room in our mouth so that it doesn’t fall back in our airway at night, causing snoring and possible sleep apnea.
Dr. Ashley Coerver practices at Crosspointe Dental, Orthodontics and Sleep Solutions, located at 2041 Hwy. 287 N., Ste. 105, in Mansfield. For more information, call 682-302-3283 or visit CrossPointeDental.com.