The gold standard for obstructive sleep apnea sufferers has long been the continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machine, a cumbersome affair that requires wearing a mask to bed every night. However, in many cases of sleep apnea, symptoms can be resolved simply by correcting the positioning of your jaw and how it affects your airway. With the help of an experienced dentist, you can address the problem at its source.

At ChapmanSmiles Orthodontics in Happy Valley, Clackamas, Oregon, orthodontist Dr. Gary Chapman can treat your sleep apnea with conservative options that can provide more comfort than a CPAP machine.

Understanding sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when your airway becomes blocked during sleep, causing you to snore, snort, or gasp for breath. You might wake up due to the interruption, but you generally lapse back into sleep without remembering or rouse just enough to keep yourself from falling into a deep sleep due to repeated events throughout the night. Either way, your sleep is being disturbed, which prevents you from feeling rested when you wake up.

When it comes to obstructive sleep apnea, there are many things that can contribute to the condition. People of all ages and backgrounds can experience OSA, but it’s been linked to the following risk factors

  • Age
  • Obesity 
  • Chronic congestion
  • Narrowed airway 
  • Family history 
  • High blood pressure 

Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to daytime sleepiness and fatigue, which can be deadly, especially if you drive or operate heavy machinery. You might also experience irritability, mood swings, and trouble concentrating (brain fog). 

If you often wake up with a sore throat and dry mouth, or regularly receive complaints from family members about snoring, there’s a good chance that OSA is behind your poor sleep. A visit to the dentist might be your best course of action.

How a dentist can help 

At ChapmanSmiles, Dr. Chapman and his team offer three general solutions for obstructive sleep apnea. Depending on the cause and severity of your case, you might try one of the following to keep your airway open. 

1. Oral appliances 

These are custom-fitted mandibular advancement splints, which gently pull the lower jaw forward to open the airway. They’re worn while you sleep and taken out during the day, and the custom-fit allows you to sleep comfortably with it in your mouth. 

2. Orthodontics 

If your sleep apnea is caused by misalignment of the teeth or bite, you might benefit from orthodontic treatment. This can be done using traditional braces, though many adults and teenagers prefer clear aligners like Invisalign® or Spark™. 

3. Expanders 

For children with sleep apnea, Dr. Chapman often recommends an expander to gently spread the upper jaw and make more room in the airway. This also helps with crowding as the child grows older and their teeth finish coming in. 

In many cases, oral appliances or orthodontic intervention is enough to alleviate sleep interruptions and snoring. To learn more about obstructive sleep apnea and discuss your options, call ChapmanSmiles at 503-336-1883, or request an appointment online

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