Sleep Apnea Treatment – Portland, OR
Obstructive Sleep Apnea—Got Air?
If you tried, chances are you could hold your breath for ten, fifteen, maybe 30 seconds or longer without too much trouble. But if you try to do that after you completely exhale, you most likely would be gasping for air within seconds. There is a HUGE difference between the two. Sleep apnea is exactly that: the inhale of fresh air begins more than ten seconds after the exhale when your lungs are empty.
Now imagine the longest you think you could delay the inhale. Few people can last longer than 10 seconds, but people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) will not infrequently go longer than a minute between breaths, and not just once. They may do it several times an hour. It is like your evil twin is sneaking into your bedroom, and very softly and gently, strangling you! And it is serious business, deadly serious. People die from it, and those with compromised hearts are severely at risk.
BUT, it is something that we can, and do, successfully treat right here at Evolution Dental. Please reach out to us today if you suspect that you or someone you love could benefit from sleep apnea treatment in Portland, OR.
Why Choose Evolution Dental for Sleep Apnea Treatment?
- Treatments That Address the Root Cause of Sleep Apnea
- Sleep Dentist with More Than 4 Decades of Experience
- State-of-the-Art Airway Correction with the Vivos Method
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder that causes the upper airway to become blocked by the surrounding soft tissues during sleep, which restricts the passage of air into the lungs. When a patient’s sleep apnea is mild, the worst symptom may simply be a case of nightly snoring. However, OSA can progress to the point where the airway becomes completely blocked for a full minute or more per episode. During this time, no air gets in or out of the lungs.
When the body subconsciously realizes it is suffocating, it tries to shift the jaw to create more room for the tongue. This shifting motion causes the patient’s teeth to grind together, a condition clinically known as bruxism. Once the body has shifted to reopen the airway, breathing resumes and the body begins to relax. Unfortunately, this just starts another cycle where the lower jaw pulls back and the tongue is once again forced into the back of the throat. The patient can no longer breathe, and the body uncomfortably shifts to reopen the airway again and again.
If you have ever tried to hold your breath for more than a minute, then you know just how difficult it is to make it to the full 60 seconds. With some people, breathing stoppages of up to a minute can happen frequently throughout the night and absolutely prevent a decent night’s sleep. In the most severe cases, obstructive sleep apnea can actually be fatal. While nightly snoring may seem more amusing than serious, untreated sleep apnea can be deadly, which is why seeking sleep apnea treatment in Portland is so important.
The Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea
As might well be expected, not breathing properly during sleep can translate into anything from snoring to an outright medical emergency of essentially self-suffocation. The most common warning signs of sleep apnea are:
- Loud, chronic snoring.
- Teeth grinding at night (bruxism)
- Jaw soreness, morning headaches, or chipped teeth.
- Gasping for air in the middle of the night.
- Waking up often at night.
- Forgetfulness, irritability, and depression.
- Inability to concentrate.
- Daytime drowsiness.
- Lack of energy.
- Falling asleep throughout the day, even during activities, events, or driving.
What to Do If You Think You Have Sleep Apnea
If you suspect that you might have sleep apnea, call us to schedule an appointment. A take-home sleep monitor that you wear for one night collects all the data necessary to diagnose OSA. It also records the occurrence of any teeth grinding during sleep as well. If it appears that you may have OSA, we will work with your physician to get you an appliance and nip this problem at the earliest possible time.
Obstructive sleep apnea affects over 20 million people in the US alone. However, since sleep apnea only occurs during rest, many patients may not even realize they suffer from it until a restless bed partner or roommate complains about their snoring habit. Fortunately, sleep apnea is easily diagnosable with our in-home apnea test. One night wearing a comfortable sleep monitor will provide Dr. Teasdale with the information needed to make a tentative apnea diagnosis. Our dental office will then forward that data to a physician for a definitive diagnosis.
Why Do I Snore?
Mechanically speaking, you snore because your uvula (that bag hanging in the back of your throat) is hanging into your airway and fluttering whenever you inhale. The question should be, why does it hang back there?
Very often, you can answer that for yourself. Look in the mirror and stick your tongue out. If there are "scalloped" edges on the side of your tongue, it indicates that your teeth are too far inward. Or, as we refer to it, a size 9 tongue in a size 7.5 garage.” And when you sleep, especially if you grind and clench, or if you are a mouth breather, the tongue has nowhere to go but back, and in doing so, it pushes the uvula into the airway.
There are lots of potential treatments for that, but the best long-term treatments are to widen and advance the upper arch, to enable the lower jaw to move forward. In doing that, the tongue not only has more room to rest, but the lower jaw pulls the tongue out of the airway.
We also can treat the uvula with an ultra-conservative CO2 laser, which will shrink and tighten the uvula, and thus give less volume to create snoring. Or, very frequently, we do both, for immediate results that will stand the test of time.
Your Options for Treating Sleep Apnea
A few years ago, Apple had a wonderful commercial that asked: “What is the best computer?” The answer, of course, was, “The one that gets used.” The most sophisticated things in the world will not be used as much as the simpler ones if they are less comfortable or convenient and if both do the job equally well, right? When it comes to treating sleep apnea, the same logic applies. The treatment that works best will be the one that you are dedicated to using regularly!
Traditionally, physicians have prescribed a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine to treat apnea patients. A patient wears a mask over their face that is hooked up to a machine. The machine pushes air through the mask, ensuring there is a constant supply of air. While CPAP machines are very effective in forcing air passed any blockage and down the throat, the machine also tends to be bulky, noisy, and restrictive. And uncomfortable. Featuring a series of hoses and a pump, getting hooked up to a CPAP machine can often feel like being on life support. Well, that is because, in many ways, it IS life support.
Thankfully, there are modern CPAP alternatives in Portland for patients who cannot tolerate them and require a different solution.
How Vivos Treats Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea can have several different causes. Often, it results from abnormalities in the development or positioning of the jaw. For example, maxillary hypoplasia (underdevelopment of the upper jaw) and mandibular retrognathia (a lower jaw that is positioned too far back) can both lead to apnea symptoms.
The Vivos system seeks to correct such problems. It uses custom, removable appliances to expand the palate and train the lower jaw to rest in its proper position. The appliances are discreet and designed to fit comfortably. A full course of treatment with Vivos can take 1 – 2 years. However, many patients begin to notice results within the first few weeks.
Another major benefit of Vivos is that it addresses the cause of OSA, not just its symptoms. After completing Vivos treatment, many patients experience a drastic reduction in their sleep apnea symptoms.
Laser Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Everyone knows that lasers have revolutionized health care (eye surgeries, for one obvious example). They enable a far more directed and delicate procedure, with fewer downsides, and a more rapid recovery.
At Evolution Dental, we can use a special FDA-approved CO2 laser to selectively "shrink" flaccid tissue, and restore it to vibrant health. This is pain-free—patients say it feels like a mouthful of PopRocks candy in the back of the throat—so quick, and incredibly effective. We use it to treat certain types of snoring or sleep apnea disorders.
In essence, it tightens up the soft tissues, leaving the throat more open. There are no contraindications and extremely short-term side effects. (Some patients say they had a minor soreness the following morning). Time and time again, it is extremely effective.
How DEKA/QuietNite Laser Treats Snoring & Sleep Apnea
When tissues in the airway over-relax during sleep, they can vibrate and cause noise when air pushes passed them. If they relax even further, they can cause airway blockages that result in repeated pauses in breathing throughout the night. This issue can occur due to increased elasticity of the soft palate that naturally occurs with age. It can also be a result of weight gain that causes the volume of the airway to decrease.
The DEKA/QuietNite laser treatment can help to reduce snoring and sleep apnea symptoms. It stimulates collagen production in the tissues of the throat and encourages them to tighten up, which in turn makes it easier for air to flow without hindrance. Each laser session is comfortable and fast, usually taking just about 10 minutes. Two or more sessions are usually recommended.
Most patients notice improvements in the quality of their sleep within just a few days of undergoing DEKA/QuietNite laser therapy.
Sleep Apnea Frequently Asked Questions
Sleep apnea is one of those health issues that gets mentioned a lot, but most people could not tell you the specifics of the condition. This uncertainty can make seeking out treatment much more difficult and nerve-racking, which is why, below, we have gone ahead and answered some of the most common questions we receive about sleep apnea treatment in Portland.
Is Sleep Apnea a Big Deal?
Many believe that the main concern with sleep apnea is a loss of rest, but that is actually just the tip of the iceberg. Untreated sleep apnea has been proven to lead to much more serious and deadly conditions, namely heart problems. In fact, it is estimated that about 30,000 fatal cardiac events occur each year that are directly connected to sleep apnea, as the frequent pauses in breathing are very stressful on the body and cause chronically high blood pressure. Also, sleep deprivation makes someone three times more likely to be in a motor vehicle accident, which is even worse than drunk driving!
Does Snoring Automatically Mean Someone Has Sleep Apnea?
While loud, frequent snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, it is not always an indicator of the condition. Many people without sleep apnea snore. However, if a person is frequently tired and experiences the other symptoms listed above in addition to snoring, then sleep apnea is very likely. Research also shows that those who snore are much more likely to develop sleep apnea in the future, so things like weight gain and using sedatives too close to bed (i.e. certain medications and alcohol) should be avoided.
Why Do I Snore?
Mechanically speaking, you snore because your uvula (that bag hanging in the back of your throat) is hanging into your airway, and fluttering whenever you inhale. The question should be, why does it hang back there?
Very often, you can answer that for yourself. Look in the mirror and stick your tongue out. If there are "scalloped" edges on the side of your tongue, it indicates that your teeth are too far inward. Or, as we refer to it, “a size 9 tongue in a size 7.5 garage." And when you sleep, especially if you grind and clench, or if you are a mouth breather, the tongue has nowhere to go but back, and in doing so, it pushes the uvula into the airway.
There are a lot of treatments for that, but the best long-term solution is to widen and advance the upper arch to enable the lower jaw to move forward. In doing that, the tongue not only has more room to rest, but the lower jaw actually pulls the tongue out of the airway. We also can treat the uvula with an ultra-conservative CO2 laser, which will shrink and tighten the tissue, and thus give less volume to create the snoring. Or, very frequently, we do both, for immediate results that will last longer.
How Common Is Sleep Apnea?
Right now, the Sleep Foundation estimates that about 22 million Americans are suffering from sleep apnea, and this includes adults, seniors, and children. However, because the primary symptoms occur while someone is unconscious, many cases go undiagnosed. According to researchers, the best guess is that about 80% of sleep apnea cases are currently undocumented. This, combined with OSA’s connection to the growing obesity problem in the U.S., means that sleep apnea is fairly common even though it often is not talked about. You likely know someone who has it!
What Can Increase the Risk of Developing Sleep Apnea?
The biggest risk factor for sleep apnea is weight gain. Excess fat deposits can place pressure on the throat, so when someone lies down to sleep, this makes the airway more prone to collapsing and becoming blocked. Sleep deprivation has also been proven to mess with someone’s hunger hormones, making it more difficult for them to become full, causing them to frequently overeat. This leads to more weight and greater sleeping difficulties. Fortunately, research has shown that with professional treatment and weight loss, the symptoms of sleep apnea can be greatly diminished and even eliminated in some cases.
Is Sleep Apnea Genetic?
Certain factors that can lead to OSA are genetic, such as having a naturally narrow airway, a larger-than-average tongue, or thick neck. However, the leading contributors to sleep apnea are obesity, smoking tobacco, and alcohol consumption within a few hours of going to bed, all of which are not connected to genetics. Even if someone is genetically predisposed to developing sleep apnea, it does not automatically mean that they will. And, treatment will basically be the same whether someone’s condition is due to genetics or not.
Can Sleep Apnea Be Fatal?
While sleep apnea itself is not necessarily fatal, it can lead to conditions or situations that often are. Sleep-deprived drivers are three times more likely to get into an accident (which is even worse than drunk driving), and OSA can also lead to chronic hypertension. High blood pressure is strongly connected to an elevated risk of stroke and heart attack, which is why sleep apnea is associated with roughly 35,000 cardiovascular-related deaths in the U.S. every year.
Are Morning Headaches and Jaw Pain Signs of Sleep Apnea?
Yes! Particularly in cases of obstructive sleep apnea, the pauses in breathing and frequent awakenings can lead to teeth grinding and clenching that causes strain in the muscles of the face and head, creating pain felt in the morning that seems to come out of nowhere. This is extremely common, and patients who notice this, in addition to feeling tired all the time and being told they snore, should schedule a screening with Dr. Teasdale sooner rather than later. This cannot only help them stop the pain and get treatment for a sleep problem, but early intervention can also potentially save their teeth from wearing down or cracking prematurely!
Who Is a Candidate for Vivos Sleep Apnea Treatment?
Vivos is designed for patients whose sleep apnea is caused by defects or abnormalities in the size, shape, or positioning of their upper or lower jaws. It is also often prescribed for individuals who have tried CPAP therapy in the past and found it difficult to tolerate. Chronic fatigue and a diagnosis of upper airway resistance syndrome are additional indicators that Vivos treatment may be the best option.
After an airway evaluation by our team, along with a home sleep test that will be analyzed by one of our partner positions, Dr. Teasdale will be able to determine the best way to move forward with addressing your obstructive sleep apnea.
How Is Vivos Treatment Different from Oral Appliance Therapy?
Many dentists offer oral appliance therapy (OAT), which involves the use of a small device that moves the lower jaw forward at night. It thereby helps to keep the airway open and reduces obstructions in breathing. While OAT can be very effective, it has its drawbacks, primarily that it only addresses sleep apnea symptoms rather than its cause. Vivos, on the other hand, seeks to permanently fix the anatomical abnormalities that interfere with nighttime breathing.
How Long Do the Results of DEKA/QuietNite Laser Treatment Last?
The results of DEKA/QuietNite treatment are not permanent. It is common for patients to come in once a year for retreatment. This is necessary because as time passes, the tissues in the throat can once again begin to lose their tightness and require help to reform so they can allow unhindered airflow.
If you or your partner notices that your snoring/sleep apnea symptoms are returning before an entire year has passed, call our office for assistance. Some patients require slightly more frequent treatment than others. Plus, it is a generally wise practice to receive regular follow-up care for any sleep disorder, including obstructive sleep apnea.