While it’s technically a sleep disorder, sleep apnea can do more than just disrupt your sleep and leave you feeling tired and groggy the next morning. If left untreated, it can affect your quality of life and increase your risk of potentially serious health complications, including diabetes and heart problems.
Sleep apnea can be difficult to diagnose, but understanding the symptoms and some of the causes and risk factors can help you understand your personal risk.
At Scott Young, DDS, our dentists offer sleep apnea treatment at our practice in The Woodlands, Texas.
Causes and risk factors for sleep apnea
Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea, but there are a few risk factors and underlying causes that can increase your chances of developing it. When you have sleep apnea, your breathing is constantly interrupted throughout the night when your throat muscles relax and temporarily block your airway.
The most common causes and risk factors for sleep apnea include:
- Being overweight
- Thick neck or a narrower airway that could obstruct breathing
- Nasal congestion or sinus blockage
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Age (children can develop sleep apnea, but it’s more common in adults)
- Gender (men are more likely to develop sleep apnea)
- Underlying medical conditions like coronary disease, diabetes, and hormone fluctuations
- Drinking alcohol
Some of the risk factors and causes for sleep apnea can be managed by making a few lifestyle changes, like maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation.
Central sleep apnea is less common, but some of the risk factors are similar to OSA, including gender, age, heart problems, or taking medications like narcotics. With central sleep apnea, the brain signals that control the muscles in your throat misfire and cause the muscles to relax.
Treating sleep apnea
If you’re experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, the first step is to schedule an appointment with one of our dentists. Depending on your circumstances, there are several options available to treat it.
Oral appliances like a specialized mouthguard can help keep your airway open while you sleep by keeping your jaw and tongue in an optimal position. If your airway is blocked by your tonsils or soft tissue in the back of your throat, you may be a good candidate for NightLase®.
NightLase is a gentle laser treatment that helps to firm up loose tissue to prevent it from blocking your airway while you sleep.
When to visit a dentist for sleep apnea
The most common sleep apnea symptoms include loud snoring, choking, or gasping for air while you sleep, waking up with a headache, dry mouth, insomnia, and exhaustion. Many people don’t know they have sleep apnea until a sleep partner notices the lapses in breathing.
If you’re experiencing symptoms or are at risk of developing sleep apnea, contact Scott Young, DDS to schedule an appointment. Our dentists will recommend the best sleep apnea treatment for your symptoms and health needs.
For more information about the causes and treatment options for sleep apnea, contact us today to schedule an appointment or request an appointment online.