Sleep Apnea FAQs

Q: What is sleep apnea?

A: Sleep apnea means difficulty breathing while sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the air passageways, usually tissue at the back of the throat, or the tongue. Someone with sleep apnea will literally stop breathing during sleep, which wakes them up. Usually the person falls back to sleep so quickly that they do not remember being awakened during the night, though it can happen hundreds of times.

Q: How can a dentist help someone with sleep apnea?

A: In order to position the jaws and tongue correctly to prevent blockage, an oral appliance can be designed for the patient. The appliance is similar to a sports mouthguard. The MicrO2 Sleep and Snore oral appliance is small and comfortable, and it allows you to speak clearly and drink liquids while wearing it.

Q: What are some of the different types of sleep breathing disorders?

A: Sleep breathing disorders fall into two categories:

  1. Central apnea
  2. Obstructive apnea

With Central apnea, the patient has to wear CPAP, otherwise they might stop breathing during their sleep, as it is life threatening.

Obstructive apnea can be corrected via mandibular advancement appliances (Dr. Mazhari uses Micro2 in our practice) to improve airways and flow of air. Also the device needs to be manufactured in a way that it does not cause TMJ pain or disorders, so it should not be fabricated arbitrarily, and this is why Dr. Mazhari utilizes the Micro2. With any treatment plan, there needs to be great attention to detail when it comes to managing the TMJ (temporomandibular joints) and muscles and ligaments, when pulling the mandible forward.

Q: What are some of the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea?

A: Loud snoring could be a tell-tale sign. Other symptoms include grogginess during the day, even if you are not aware of having sleep problems; difficulty concentrating; headaches or dry mouth in the morning; or restless sleep that you are aware of.

Q: Doesn’t sleep apnea only happen to older men?

A: While men over 50 are at highest risk for obstructive sleep apnea, anyone can get it. The risk is higher for anyone 50 or older, people who are overweight, smokers, people with high blood pressure, those who have chronic problems with nasal congestion and anyone with a large neck circumference.( also anatomical constrictions such as large tongue, compressed mandible , bad bite , myofascial issues , narrow palate, vaulted palates,

Q: Can a dentist diagnose and treat sleep apnea?

A: Sleep apnea must be diagnosed by a medical doctor after proper sleep testing. A dentist can offer treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea, which is a neurological condition, can only be treated by a doctor. But central sleep apnea is much less common than obstructive sleep apnea.

Q: Can I come in for a dental exam and talk about sleep apnea without a diagnosis from a doctor?

A: Yes you can. Dr. Mazhari can give you an oral exam and evaluate your bite. After an exam and discussion of your symptoms and oral health history, you may wish to see a doctor for a sleep study to determine if you have obstructive sleep apnea. You can then return to Dr. Mazhari for treatment with an oral appliance.