It’s estimated that 14% of people around the globe have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), but for many, their condition goes undiagnosed for years while their well-being suffers. It’s not just about snoring or disturbing a bed partner; OSA can have serious health risks.

At ChapmanSmiles Orthodontics in Happy Valley, Clackamas, Oregon, orthodontist Dr. Gary Chapman can help properly diagnose and recommend treatment for your sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea basics

There are two kinds of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea, which is an issue with the brain that causes the body to stop breathing, and obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the soft tissues at the top of the throat slacken and close the airway. A third “type” of sleep apnea, complex sleep apnea, is actually just a combination of these two types.

OSA is by far the most common form of sleep apnea. It doesn’t cause immediate or direct fatality, since the brain is still engaged and still sends breathing signals, which wake your body up just enough to tighten the collapsed muscle and pull the back of your tongue forward so you can take a breath.

You normally don’t even wake up as this happens over and over again, all night long. In fact, absent a bed partner who complains about you snoring, snorting, or making gagging or choking noises, you’re likely to suffer for years with sleep apnea before you ever realize there’s an issue. 

However, there are other OSA symptoms which, if recognized, can lead you to seek a diagnosis:

  • A headache almost every morning
  • Sore throat and sinuses 
  • Daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and exhaustion 
  • Clouded thoughts, brain fog, or inattentiveness
  • Sleepiness while driving
  • Mood swings and irritability 
  • Worsened ADHD symptoms
  • Loss of sexual interest or function

If you experience any of these, you should seek medical help.

Serious dangers of sleep apnea

Left untreated, sleep apnea can seriously damage your health over time. Thanks to ongoing sleep deprivation, you could find yourself drifting off behind the wheel, causing a car accident that could prove fatal. Additionally, increased risk for the following serious health issues have been linked to OSA and poor sleep:  

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Stroke

OSA is also found in many people who also have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma, as well as patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It can make all of these conditions worse.

Treating sleep apnea 

Dr. Chapman consults with you about your sleep apnea symptoms and has several options when it comes to treatment. In many cases, the solution is to realign the position of the jaw and mouth, so the airway can’t collapse during sleep. 

This can be accomplished with orthodontics to correct a faulty bite, or with oral appliances that are customized to correctly position your jaw for easy breathing all night long. 

To learn more about sleep apnea treatment options, get in touch with the team at ChapmanSmiles. You can schedule a consultation by calling 503-336-3269, or request an appointment online.

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