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How Do I Know If I Have Sleep Apnea?

a man with sleep apnea sleeping on a bed

Snoring is loud, obnoxious and can be enough to cause partners to flee from your bed and onto the couch. 

Did you know that snoring could also be a symptom of a serious medical disorder? 

If someone has told you that you snore, you might be suffering from sleep apnea. This disorder can be evidence of other medical issues, leading to heart problems or other complications. If you have concerns, a qualified dentist can help.

But what does a dentist have to do with snoring? Dentists specialize in the gateway to your body’s airflow: your mouth. The best dentist will be an expert in identifying and even treating these symptoms before they become more serious. 

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder. Those suffering from sleep apnea will experience problems breathing during the night. Their breathing will often start and stop as they sleep.

There are three common types of sleep apnea. 

Obstructive sleep apnea is the result of relaxing throat muscles. This form is the most common.

Central sleep apnea has to do with the brain. If the brain does not send the signal that tells you to breathe during sleep, you can experience sleep apnea symptoms. Some of these symptoms include loud snoring and drowsiness even after a full night’s sleep.

Complex sleep apnea syndrome involves a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea. 

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Sufferers of sleep apnea may or may not be aware of their symptoms. In many cases, a partner informs the sufferer about snoring and breathing difficulties during the night. 

If you sleep alone, it can be more challenging to tell what is happening during the night. Other symptoms are more apparent. If you find yourself waking up with a choking feeling, there’s a good chance you have sleep apnea.

Many individuals with sleep apnea will feel tired upon waking and carry that fatigue with them throughout the day. They may also wake up with a sore throat as a result of the snoring, or experience headaches. 

The lack of sleep can also lead to changes in mood. If you find that you are grumpy or irritable, even after a full night of sleep, there may be a problem. In addition to mood swings, sleep apnea-related exhaustion can also cause some individuals to experience weight gain. 

Who Gets Sleep Apnea?

Several risk factors may make it more likely for an individual to get sleep apnea. 

Patients with obesity have a heightened risk of sleep apnea. This is also true of individuals with a large neck circumference. Hypertension, related or unrelated to obesity, can also cause obstructive sleep problems. 

Sleep apnea is more common in male patients than female patients. When sleep apnea does present in women, they are often post-menopausal. In all cases, a family history of sleep apnea makes it more likely that you are also experiencing this medical problem. 

Cases of sleep apnea are also common in individuals with small lower jaws. A dentist can tell you whether or not you may be at risk for this reason. 

Which Dentists Can Treat Sleep Apnea?

While many dentists can recognize indicators of sleep apnea, not every dentist has specialized training in treatment for sleep apnea. That’s why Dr. Sarah Wilmer, DDS, has received an extensive education in how to provide top-of-the-line care for patients with sleep disorders

Dr. Wilmer recognizes that comprehensive healthcare is often a team effort. That’s why she will likely work directly with your physician or another sleep doctor to diagnose your disorder correctly and come up with a treatment plan customized for you. 

How Does Dr. Wilmer Treat Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Study

Treatment for sleep apnea begins with a diagnosis. For most patients, this means undergoing a sleep study

Some individuals decide to go to a sleep disorder center to have the study performed. There, a doctor will monitor your breathing and behavior during the night. They’ll use a test called a nocturnal polysomnograph to monitor your heart, lungs, body movements, and brain activity during the night. 

In some cases, you may be able to do an at-home sleep test. 

If initial testing is enough to diagnose sleep apnea, you will begin to work with Dr. Wilmer on a treatment plan. 

Treatment Options

In some cases, lifestyle changes may be enough to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea. This is more common in cases caused by obesity. 

A common therapy is the use of continuous positive airway pressure, or a CPAP, machine. This machine delivers oxygen through a mask while you sleep. This will keep airways open and will prevent snoring.

In cases where it’s appropriate, Dr. Wilmer will create a custom-fabricated sleep device. This is similar to a nightguard and is designed to help you get the oxygen you need while you sleep. 

Other sleep apnea patients may benefit from NightLase, a non-surgical procedure that Dr. Wilmer performs in her office to open up your airway and help you be a happy, healthy sleeper. 

A Dentist Can Help You Get Back to Sleep

If you suspect that you have a problem with sleep apnea, your dentist may be the best advocate there is. There are plenty of non-invasive treatment options that will have you sleeping through the night! 

If you are in the state of Virginia, Dr. Wilmer is ready to help you find some relief. Schedule a consultation with her today at the Cosmetic and Laser Dental Spa of Richmond. You will be breathing easy in no time! 

 

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