Sleep Apnea

Cosmetic, General & TMJ Dentist Serving Boston, Medford, Malden, Cambridge, Somerville & Nearby Massachusetts

Sleep apnea is a fairly common disorder which can negatively impact your quality of life. People suffering from sleep apnea stop breathing for a few seconds (or longer) multiple times a night, leading to poor sleep quality. Sleep apnea is also a major cause of snoring, which can cause problems for your significant other.

snoring diagram

If you suspect you may be suffering from sleep apnea, visit Medford dentist Dr. Ryan Clancy for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Call us at 781-396-8558 to schedule your consultation today.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

There are two main types of sleep apnea:

  • Central Sleep Apnea: This type occurs when your brain doesn't communicate properly with your breathing muscles while you're asleep. This is the less common type, and usually requires a CPAP machine for treatment.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea: OSA is more common than CSA, and occurs when the airway is blocked while sleeping at night. This blockage occurs because of the soft palate and tongue collapsing into the airway during sleep.

If you have central sleep apnea, you will likely require medical intervention. However, obstructive sleep apnea can often be treated through less intrusive means, such as an orthotic device to keep your jaw and tongue in place while sleeping.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues of the throat collapse while you're asleep, blocking your airway. The brain senses a lack of oxygen and sends signals to wake up. Sometimes people are aware of waking up and may do so abruptly, gasping for breath. Other times, though, they may only awaken subconsciously. It is possible to wake up multiple times throughout the night without even being aware that you're waking up.

Symptoms to look out for that could indicate sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Shortness of breath
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability

Since many sleep apnea sufferers are not aware of waking up throughout the night, it becomes important to monitor daytime symptoms. A partner may notice something's wrong before the patient, especially if they are being woken up repeatedly due to loud snoring.

Untreated sleep apnea can have long-term consequences, which may include an increased risk for the following serious medical conditions:

  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Cognitive disruptions

See a doctor as soon as possible if you or your partner thinks that you may have sleep apnea.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

image describing the prevalance of snoring among sleep apnea patientsYou may be at risk for sleep apnea due to genetics, lifestyle, or a combination of both. Typical risk factors for sleep apnea can include:

  • A family history of sleep apnea
  • Narrow airways
  • Allergies or chronic congestion
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Excessive use of narcotics or sleep aids

Leading a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, and smoking are all significant risk factors for developing sleep apnea. In some cases, improving your overall health, losing weight, and quitting smoking can lead to sleep apnea being cured. You may need to use a CPAP or other treatment in the meantime, though.

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Obesity

Although not everyone with sleep apnea is overweight, a majority are. Excessive weight gain can cause excessive tissue to develop in the back of the throat, which then blocks the airway at night. This link between being overweight and having sleep apnea is well documented, and an accepted treatment option is losing weight.

We know that losing weight can be a difficult and time consuming process. An oral appliance can be used during your weight loss journey to help manage your sleep apnea symptoms, with the goal that eventually you will no longer need it since you will be at a healthy weight with normal amounts of soft tissue in the throat.

Even if your OSA is not completely cured through weight loss, your symptoms should become much less severe and you will be healthier overall.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

Usually, the first tip-off that a patient may have sleep apnea is loud snoring noticed by a significant other. If you live alone, you may not realize that you snore, though, making it a little more difficult to diagnose. In this case, you should take note of any symptoms you have in the daytime. If you are always tired despite going to bed at a reasonable hour, or if you notice increased irritability or lack of focus, see a doctor.

Diagnosis may be made on the basis of symptoms alone, or a doctor may want you to undergo a sleep study to determine the extent and severity of your OSA. Dr. Clancy offers a home sleep test for patients who may be suffering from sleep apnea, and he works in close partnership with the board-certified pulmonologists at BlueSleep for the most accurate diagnosis possible. 

We also offer telemedicine options for patients who cannot make the trip out to our office as often as needed. Call us to ask about this option. 

Sleep Apnea Treatment

The two main types of treatment for sleep apnea are a CPAP machine or a special orthotic device used when sleeping. Which one you need is determined by a number of factors, including the type of sleep apnea you have and the severity of your sleep apnea.

  • CPAP: CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure, and is a machine that uses air pressure to keep your airway open while sleeping. CPAP is generally the treatment of choice if you have central sleep apnea or if your sleep apnea is particularly severe.
  • Orthotic device: A specially fitted orthotic device worn at night can help to keep the jaw forward and your soft tissues in place. Orthotic devices are less cumbersome to use than a CPAP machine, and are often the treatment of choice for patients with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

While a CPAP machine can be very effective, it does have a number of downsides. Many people find them hard to get used to, and as a result may not use them every night, thus negating their benefit. In addition, CPAP machines are loud, which can cause problems for your partner. If you are a restless sleeper or have trouble falling asleep, it can be almost impossible to use a CPAP correctly.

For some people, they will need to somehow find a way to use the CPAP regularly and sleep comfortably with it, as it is the only option that will work well for them. For others, though, an orthotic device may be a better choice.

Surgery is also an option if nothing else works, but this is usually considered a last resort. In addition, if your sleep apnea is caused or worsened by obesity or smoking, lifestyle changes may be strongly recommended.

MicrO2 Orthotic Device for Sleep Apnea

Here at Cosmetic & Esthetic Dentistry, we offer the MicrO2 orthotic device for patients suffering from sleep apnea. This device is custom fit for your mouth, and works by holding your jaw and tongue in position while you sleep so that your airway remains clear. It is relatively comfortable to wear, and has no bulky hoses or loud sounds like a CPAP machine.

Benefits of using the MicrO2 oral appliance over a CPAP machine include:

  • More comfortable
  • Quiet
  • Effective
  • Easier to use
  • Easy to replace if needed

If you are suffering from OSA, talk to Dr. Clancy to see if MicrO2 may be a good choice for you. It can be used in patients with mild to severe sleep apnea, sometimes in conjunction with a weight loss and nutrition program.

We work closely with Prosomnus, the makers of the MicrO2 device, to create the best treatment option for your individual case. If you find that you are having any kind of discomfort or trouble with your device, we will work together to fix it for you. 

Why Treat Sleep Apnea?

Aside from the immediate symptoms that OSA causes, there are also a number of longer-term issues that can occur from untreated sleep apnea. Sleep apnea deprives you of necessary sleep as well as oxygen, which has negative effects on the body as well as mental health.

Abruptly waking up multiple times a night due to lack of oxygen stresses the body and leads to increased cortisol levels, which can lead to heart attack. Lack of sleep has a detrimental effect on your concentration and mood during the day, which can lead to problems at work and in your personal life. Plus, driving while drowsy is extremely dangerous - slowed reaction speeds and the possibility of falling asleep behind the wheel makes your daily commute a game of potentially deadly roulette.

Untreated sleep apnea also increases your risk of stroke and depression. It can even cause sudden death in your sleep, although this is rare. It is more likely that your lifespan may be shortened due to health problems arising from lack of sleep.

Teeth grinding is also closely related to sleep apnea. If you grind your teeth, it can lead to dental problems such as worn down, cracked, and loosened teeth. These in turn can lead to other problems such as jaw pain or even TMJ.

Schedule Your Sleep Apnea Consultation

If you are suffering from OSA, don't hesitate to contact Dr. Clancy at 781-396-8558 to schedule your consultation. We serve patients in Medford, Winchester, Somerville, Cambridge, and other nearby areas of Boston.

Back to Top