Sleep Apnea

Serving Brentwood, Belle Meade and Green Hills Areas of Nashville TN

You can eat right, exercise, and avoid potentially harmful habits. However, to be your best both physically and mentally, you have to make sure you get enough quality sleep. People who suffer from sleep apnea find this to be impossible. This serious sleep breathing disorder affects millions of Americans, but Dr. Brian Devine, a dentist that screens for and helps treat sleep apnea in Nashville, could be the answer to a peaceful night’s sleep, and a healthier you.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

sleep apnea tmj

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep-breathing disorder affecting people of all ages, even children. Unfortunately, many sufferers are unaware of their plight, leaving them untreated and exposed to the risks associated with sleep-breathing disorders. Sleep apnea means that breathing is restricted or momentarily completed blocked while sleeping. These interruptions in breathing are called apneic events. It could be as brief as 10 seconds, or last several minutes. A severe case of sleep apnea could result in as many as a hundred or more apneic events per hour! Eventually, the drop of oxygen levels and accumulation of carbon dioxide provokes a response from the brain, triggering the sympathetic nervous system into a fight-or-flight response to rouse the body from sleep and resume normal breathing. A person with untreated sleep apnea may never wake up consciously during these apneic events, which disrupts the sleep cycle. That makes it more difficult to remain in the REM sleep cycle—the deepest stage of the sleep, and the one that is vital to restoring both the mind and body.

Most cases of sleep apnea never get diagnosed or treated

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 80 percent of the 22 million Americans with sleep apnea go their entire lives without seeking treatment. That means they continue to live with poor sleep and the cascading negative consequences on their physical and mental health.

That’s why it’s crucial to recognize the signs of sleep apnea, so you can seek help from a qualified medical professional like your Nashville airway dentist. The most significant warning sign of sleep apnea is snoring—this isn’t just an occasional snore, but loud, continued snoring, although persistent daytime fatigue is another common symptom of untreated sleep apnea. However, the only way to know for certain whether you suffer from a sleep-breathing disorder is to undergo a sleep apnea screening in Nashville or receive an official diagnosis from a sleep specialist.

Here are some other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea:

  • Chronic daytime fatigue
  • Frequent headaches, especially first thing in the morning
  • Cognitive problems, such as difficulty concentrating, learning or remembering
  • Feeling irritable or experiencing mood swings often
  • Regularly waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth
  • Making choking or gasping sounds while asleep
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Waking up often
  • Performing poorly at work or school
  • Teeth grinding or clenching (clinically known as bruxism)

Who can develop sleep apnea?  

You may think that sleep apnea only happens to people who are older or obese. The reality is that sleep apnea can affect people of any age—including young children. If a child develops sleep apnea, he or she may exhibit symptoms that are quite different from what an adult experiences. For example, children with a sleep breathing disorder often have difficulty paying attention or experience behavioral problems at school, two issues that are common with kids receiving treatment for ADD or ADHD. In fact, children with sleep apnea may be misdiagnosed with a hyperactivity disorder. If your child is receiving treatment for ADD or ADHD, but neither medication nor therapy is improving their behavior, the root cause could be an untreated sleep breathing disorder like sleep apnea. Until the root cause is addressed, which could be an obstructed airway, their symptoms will not improve.

Other sleep apnea symptoms that are unique to children include:

  • Sleepwalking
  • Wetting the bed
  • Night sweats
  • Extremely restless sleep or frequent tossing and turning
  • Stunted physical growth

The consequences of living with sleep loss could be deadly

Everyone has a night of little to no sleep on occasion, but if you regularly fail to get enough sleep or your sleep is of insufficient quality, it’s going to affect you. At first, you may just find that you are often tired during the day, but soon you may find it difficult to enjoy even your favorite things. You also may experience a diminished libido or even impotence, or have lapses in judgment.

The longer you live with sleep loss, the more problems you likely will experience. You may develop depression or anxiety. Over time, your physical health may begin to decline. Chronic daytime fatigue is an inevitable consequence of living with sleep loss long term, and this can jeopardize you and others if you drive a vehicle or operate heavy machinery at work. According to AAA, there are approximately 328,000 car crashes each year that can be attributed to “drowsy driving,” which cause thousands of fatalities and injuries.

The risk on the road is just one way that sleep apnea can jeopardize your life. Severe, untreated sleep apnea eventually makes you more vulnerable to a host of different chronic, systemic, and possibly fatal conditions, including:

  • Cardiac disease
  • Stroke and/or hypertension
  • Cognitive decline or dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Certain types of cancer

Sleep apnea also can make you more susceptible to certain forms of cancer. Not only that, but medical research has shown that individuals with sleep apnea have a mortality rate from cancer that is nearly five times higher than those who do not have sleep apnea.

Your airway dentist can help

An airway dentist has completed specialized education and compiled significant experience focusing on the structure of the mouth and throat, and how they affect breathing. This unique focus of an airway dentist means that Dr. Devine can screen for sleep apnea, provide an airway assessment, and collaborate with your physician to provide you with the best care possible for your sleep apnea treatment.

What to expect during a sleep apnea screening with an airway dentist

A review of your past medical history and lifestyle, including whether or not you snore, have experienced difficulty sleeping, have a tongue-tie or ever sustained a deviated septum, or some other type of nasal damage that could potentially block the airway.

A clinical examination, which will involve measuring neck circumference, a visual assessment of the distance between the base of the tongue and roof of the mouth, and evaluating the range of motion of the tongue.

How does an airway dentist treat sleep apnea?

You may have heard about the CPAP, which is a continuous positive airway pressure machine that connects to a mask that is worn while sleeping. This device generates a constant flow of air to keep your airway open and prevent the blockages that cause sleep apnea. While CPAP is considered the standard method of sleep apnea treatment, it’s not for everyone. In fact, a recent research study found that the vast majority of sleep apnea patients—83 percent—eventually become non-compliant. This means they either stop using the machine altogether or use it properly for less than four hours on a nightly basis.

What are some of the frequent complaints of sleep apnea patients regarding CPAP?

  • Embarrassment
  • Hinders intimacy
  • Difficult to use or uncomfortable
  • Causes skin irritation and/or rashes from the mask
  • Causes dry mouth and/or throat
  • Problems sleeping, either for the patient or their sleeping partner, due to the noise made by the machine
  • Inconvenient to maintain
  • Cumbersome when traveling

This is why your Nashville airway dentist prefers oral appliance therapy to treat obstructive sleep apnea

For a method of treatment that yields higher compliance, and is minimally invasive, oral appliance therapy can be the ideal way to resolve sleep apnea and its related symptoms. Our oral appliances represent a major upgrade over the anti-snoring mouth guards you can purchase over the counter. Not only are these devices made from high-quality materials, but also we fabricate them from specific impressions of your teeth and mouth. This guarantees the most secure, effective, and comfortable fit possible.

When worn, this sleep apnea oral appliance applies gentle pressure to guide your lower jaw into a forward position. This encourages the ideal oral resting posture—with lips closed, teeth closed, and the tongue resting against the roof of the mouth—while also keeping the airway open throughout the night. Custom-made oral appliances have a higher compliance rate than CPAP, and by alleviating the airway issue that causes sleep apnea, then you get restful sleep.

Alternative Sleep Apnea Treatment in Nashville

Obstructive sleep apnea is a severe, chronic condition that only can be treated by a medical professional to obtain lasting relief. Without seeking proper treatment, your condition will worsen, intensifying the health risks that come along with the disorder. That’s why it’s so important to eliminate those risks, get the quality sleep that you need, and improve your overall quality of life. The unique training of Dr. Brian Devine, an airway dentist in Green Hills, makes him qualified to recognize symptoms of sleep apnea and work collaboratively with your physician to provide you with the necessary treatment. Ready to find out more? Schedule your consultation with TMJ and Airway Associates of Nashville today by calling (615) 329-1854. We welcome patients of Belle Meade, Green Hills, and Nashville.