Scientific research states about 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a common but serious condition that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep.
The three types of sleep apnea are:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is the most common form of sleep apnea. The upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses, reducing or completely stopping airflow.
Central Sleep Apnea: the brain doesn’t send signals to the muscles that control breathing due to instability in the respiratory control center.
Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome: when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea
The condition may be mild (less than 15 episodes per hour), moderate (15-30 episodes per hour), or severe (greater than 30 episodes per hour).
Who is most at risk for developing sleep apnea?
- Overweight individuals
- Those over the age of 40
- Men who have a neck size 17 inches or greater, women who have a neck size 16 inches or greater
- Those with gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- Individuals who have a large tongue and/or tonsils, and a small jaw bone
- A family history of sleep apnea
- Those who have sinus issues, allergies, or a deviated septum
- Individuals who often use alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers which can relax throat muscles
- If you have a heart condition or if you have suffered a stroke, you are more at risk for central sleep apnea
Is sleep apnea a serious condition?
Sleep apnea is a very serious condition. It can be life-threatening, and it always affects quality of life. When someone suffers from sleep apnea, the brain and body are both deprived of the oxygen they need.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious negative effects on your health, including but not limited to:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and heart attacks
- Worsening of ADHD
- Cognitive and behavioral disorders
How do I know if I have sleep apnea? What are common sleep apnea symptoms?
The most common symptom is loud snoring. Very often the partner of the person with sleep apnea is the first to bring the issue to their attention.
Other common symptoms of sleep apnea:
- A sore or dry throat upon waking
- Morning headaches
- Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia) and/or restless sleep
- Gasping for air or choking sensation during sleep
- Low energy and excessive sleepiness during the day
- Frequent mood changes/ Irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low libido
Epworth Sleepiness Scale —A Simple Test to Screen for Sleep Apnea and other Sleep Disorders
There is a simple screening tool that helps determine who should seek sleep disorder counseling called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (EES). The test is a short questionnaire that measures daytime sleepiness. The EES rates a person’s likelihood of falling asleep during the day. If you are curious as to whether you may have a sleep apnea, take the Epworth test below.
Use the following scale to choose the most appropriate number for each situation:
0 = would never doze
1 = slight chance of dozing
2 = moderate chance of dozing
3 = high chance of dozing
Answer each question as best you can. In the blank space to the left of each situation, write a number indicating your Chance of Dozing (from 0-3)
_____ Sitting quietly after a lunch without alcohol
_____ In a car, while stopped for a few minutes in traffic
_____ Sitting and reading
_____ Watching TV
_____ Sitting, inactive in a place (e.g. theatre or a meeting)
_____ As a passenger in a car for an hour without a break
_____ Lying down to rest in the afternoon when circumstances permit
_____ Sitting and talking to someone
Add up your numbers.
_____ Total score
THE EPWORTH SLEEPINESS SCALE KEY
1 – 6 You are getting enough sleep
7 – 8 Your score is average
9 and up Seek the advice of a sleep specialist for further investigation
If you scored 9 or above on the questionnaire it is advised that you schedule a consultation with a sleep specialist for further testing and proper diagnosis. It is important to note that this questionnaire is only a screening tool and is not meant to imply a diagnosis. Only a medical doctor should be diagnosing your condition.
Treatment of Sleep Apnea and Snoring
The first step in treating OSA and/or snoring is an evaluation and diagnosis from a physician. A sleep study (polysomnogram) is the test used to determine if you have sleep apnea or primary snoring without sleep apnea. (Patients diagnosed with primary snoring and no OSA can be referred to a qualified dentist to construct a snore guard.) After your physician has diagnosed your condition, treatment may begin.
I’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea. How can Carolina Mountain Dental help?
Sleep Apnea Appliances and Snore Guards
- Patients diagnosed with severe OSA will typically be advised to begin continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) treatment and to make lifestyle changes.
- Patients diagnosed with mild to moderate OSA have the option of CPAP treatment or oral appliance therapy (OAT), a night guard type device that goes inside your mouth and helps maintain an open airway while you sleep. OAT is also a great option for those who have an adverse reaction to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment. Many people find CPAP uncomfortable or intolerable.
About Dr. Efird
Dr. Jeff Efird has practiced dentistry for over 20 years. His love and respect for the dental profession continues to grow as he sees patients positively affected by proper oral health and quality treatment under his care. Dr. Efird understands a relationship with a dentist is a lifelong endeavor and values the respect and trust his patients extend.
Dr. Efird began his training as an undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill. He attained a degree in chemistry before continuing his education and graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry in 1987.
Dedicated to expanding his own knowledge and that of his practice, Dr. Efird has completed over 1000 hours of continuing education since graduating from dental school. Over the last decade he has focused most of his education of advanced restorative techniques and implant restorative solutions. Much of the training has been associated with the renowned Spear Education center in Scottsdale.
A member of the American Dental Association, Academy of General Dentistry, North Carolina Dental Society, and Buncombe County Dental Society, Dr. Efird is committed to providing outstanding quality care to patients in Western North Carolina. He lives in Asheville with his wife and son, and loves to fish and build handcrafted boats.