A Serious Health Problem
If you snore loudly and often, you know the social implications of your problem. It is no laughing matter when your spouse or significant other can’t sleep in the same room with you. It is a signal that something is wrong with your breathing during sleep. It means that the airway is not fully open and the noise that you make comes from efforts to force air through the narrowed passageways.
It is estimated that one in every ten adults snores, and for most, snoring has no serious medical consequences. However, for an estimated 1 in 100 persons, habitual snoring is the first indication of a potentially lifethreatening disorder called “obstructive sleep apnea.”
Both snoring and sleep apnea are gaining greater recognition among health professionals and the lay public. The Los Angeles Times, on August 1, 2008, carried an article about two recent studies and characterized the problem of sleep apnea as “a fatal disease.” Dr. Gerber is experienced in the recognition and treatment of both snoring and sleep apnea with dental therapeutic appliances.
What is Sleep Apnea?
An apnea episode is defined as the absence of breath for ten seconds or more. Someone is considered to suffer from sleep apnea if they stop breathing 30 or more times during a normal seven-hour sleep period. Typically, a person may have as many as 300 apneic episodes per night, and some of them may last up to 120 seconds at a time. V\17en these interruptions of breathing occur, the percentage of oxygen in the blood drops, causing your blood pressure to rise and your heart to work harder. Over time, these episodes of apnea can even be associated with stroke, hypertension, kidney problems, and cardiopulmonary problems.
When sleep apnea is suspected, Dr. Gerber will refer the patient to a pulmonary, or ENT, specialist to determine the location of the obstruction. Usually, sleep study is also required. Vvhen the details of the degree of apnea are recorded, then appropriate treatment recommendations can be made. There are three modalities of treatment that may be recommended. A nasal CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) mask is worn over the nose. With a CPAP, the airway is kept open by using a compressor that gently forces air through the nasal passages. Surgery may be recommended if physical abnormalities like enlarged tonsils, nasal polyps, a deviated septum, or malformations of the jaw or palate are responsible for the closing of the airway. There are numerous surgical techniques which are available to help correct these defects. Dental appliances have also been very successful in the treatment of snoring and in both the diagnosis and treatment of obstructive apnea, depending upon the severity of the apnea.
Dental appliances help keep the airway open during sleep by bringing the jaw forward, elevating the soft palate, and moving the tongue forward.
If you have any questions about snoring or sleep apnea, or would like a consultation with Dr. Gerber, please call 310-652-0450.