Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common sleep apnea diagnosis. This disorder is caused when soft tissue in the back of your throat relaxes during sleep and blocks your airway. As airflow stops, the oxygen level in your blood drops, causing your brain to kick start the breathing process, which is often accompanied by gasps or choking. Sleep apnea causes your sleep cycle to reset multiple times during night, which not only affects how you feel when you wake up, but can also lead to chronic conditions and can even be fatal if the case is severe and left untreated.

For many sleep apnea sufferers symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • High blood pressure
  • Labored breathing at night
  • Puffing sounds at night
  • Dry mouth upon awakening
  • Snoring
  • Jaw clenching, grinding
  • Morning headaches
  • Overweight/obesity
  • Irritability
  • Change in personality
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sweating during sleep
  • Heartburn
  • Reduced libido
  • Insomnia
  • Urinating at nighttime
  • Restless sleep
  • Snorting, gasping, or choking
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Confusion upon waking
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Diabetes
  • History of heart problems
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Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can only be diagnosed by a physician and after the patient has had a sleep study. There are two types of sleep studies:

  1. Polysomnogram (in lab sleep study)
  2. Out of Center Sleep Study (Home Sleep Test)

In lab sleep studies are the gold standard but many insurance companies now dictate home sleep test first due to their ease, affordability, and accuracy. Basically, in lab tests have more accurate data and home sleep tests have more natural sleep as you are in your regular environment.

Sleep disorders are frequently found in patients suffering from chronic orofacial pain disorders. Dr. Bloxham screens each patient for potential sleep related breathing disorders that contribute to their pain and works closely with local medical professionals to find effective solutions. He will often recommend that patients see a sleep specialty physician to properly diagnose any disorder and then work collectively to find the appropriate avenue for each individual to treat their Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Treatments For Sleep Apnea

Before starting any insomnia or sleep apnea treatments it is essential to have a comprehensive clinical exam evaluating the airway. It doesn’t make sense to treat the collapsing airway prior to a proper evaluation.

First line treatment for OSA is use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. CPAP machines work well for those who are able to tolerate their use. Unfortunately for many individuals, CPAPs may be uncomfortable and their use is abandoned out of frustration. Oral Appliance Therapy for mild to moderate patients can provide an alternative treatment.

CPAP Therapy requires wearing a mask on your face at night that blows air (positive pressure) through your nose to keep your airway from collapsing at night. This breathing machine is kept on all night and can require adding distilled water to humidify the air you breathe. CPAP machines are not custom made but prefabricated with a number of different mask to attach to the hoses.

Oral Appliance Therapy requires wearing a customize oral appliance resting on your dentition. This appliance serves to physiologically prevent the collapse of your airway by stabilizing your lower jaw, tongue, and soft palate. There are over 115 different variations of these customized appliances making a comprehensive evaluation paramount for selecting the best device for you. Oral appliance therapy can be very effective in treating patients who snore and those suffering from mild to moderate sleep apnea. Additionally, if severe sleep apnea patients are unable to tolerate a CPAP machine, they can be fitted with an appliance that positions the lower jaw and tongue to provide optimal airflow during sleep.