Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous with fairly benign symptoms such as loud snoring at night, and morning headaches or daytime bouts of sleepiness. The cause? Intermittent periods throughout sleep when you actually stop breathing.

Breathing cessation, or apnea, lasts from seconds to nearly a minute. When breathing resumes, the brain senses lack of oxygen and wakes you up. The snoring is loud, sometimes explosive.

In the morning, the build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood causes headaches. And the lack of deep sleep can leave one drowsy and usually grouchy, during the day.

During sleep apnea, the upper air passages in the mouth and throat are obstructed (no one is sure why, even Dr. Aubin). One form of treatment that has proven successful is wearing an acrylic appliance during sleep to keep air passages open. It’s comfortable and easy to use.

Sleep Apnea Frequently Asked Questions:

  • How can an orthodontist reduce snoring?
    To determine the severity of your snoring problem, an orthodontist will “map” your nasal passages and your oral airway with a quick and painless technique called acoustic reflection technology. ART draws a picture of your nasal passages and oral airway with sound. After pinpointing the location and degree of airway obstruction an orthodontist will treat you with Oral Appliance Therapy. When mapping your airway with ART, Wakefield Orthodontics employs a suite of diagnostic equipment called the Eccovision©, a self-contained processor emitting soundwaves through two tools: the rhinometer and the pharyngometer.

Rhinometer
The rhinometer test is performed first, in order to check the nasal passages. This tool helps to rule out any obstruction or enlargement in the turbinates as the cause of your sleep disordered breathing problem. If an obstruction or enlargement is discovered, Dr. Aubin will refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist right away.

Pharyngometer
The pharyngometer is used to map the cross-sectional diameter of the oral airway and measure its stability. This allows the discovery of existing points of obstruction as well as your optimal breathing position.

In addition, the pharyngometer is instrumental in determining your eligibility regarding successful oral appliance therapy.

It is important that you treat your sleep disordered breathing problem as soon as possible.

  • What are the risks associated with snoring?
    • Cardiovascular Disease
    • Hypertension
    • Ischemic Stroke
    • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)
    • Depression
    • Sexual Dysfunction
    • Family Discord
    • Increased Mortality
  • What are the usual options for treatment?
    Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP), surgery, or oral appliance.

CPAP is a mask that fits directly over the nose and mouth and is worn during the night. The patient lays on his or her back so as not to disturb the position of the mask. Pumping air into the nasal passages and into the lungs, it works like a reverse vacuum cleaner.Side effects may include dry mouth and bloated stomach, lacerations on the bridge of the nose, and sleep deprivation.

Surgery ranges from tonsillectomy to tongue-based surgery and encompasses everything in between. Degrees of invasiveness vary from procedure to procedure. Some are more painful, some have longer recuperation periods. Estimates of surgeries’ effectiveness are as high as 50% and as low as 30%.

An oral appliance looks like an athletic mouth guard, but much less bulky. The oral appliance gently holds your jaw in the right position to maintain proper airway function as you sleep. Successful treatment is achieved by simply wearing the oral appliance at night.