Learning to Take Better Care of Your Family's Teeth

Can A Dentist Help You To Breathe Better In Your Sleep?

If you've been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you know how dangerous the disorder can be. Sleep apnea can prevent you from breathing while you're asleep, cutting you off from the oxygen you desperately need. Surprisingly, a visit to a dentist might be able to help you with this disorder. This guide will explain more about how sleep apnea interrupts your breathing and what a dentist can do to help.

How Sleep Apnea Prevents Breathing

Sleep apnea occurs when the body is at rest and the windpipe temporarily collapses. In general, it happens because the surrounding tissues, muscles, and fat are relaxed and put pressure onto the uvula, which cuts off the windpipe. When you stop breathing, you eventually are forced awake by your body beginning to panic, which makes you forcefully breathe in, opening up the airway again. However, once your body relaxes back into sleep, the process will repeat. This not only means you'll have a poor night's sleep and wake up tired, but it can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, too.

How a Dentist Can Help

Dentists who specialize in sleep apnea care can build you a special device that helps to prevent the uvula from cutting off your airway. This device is called a mandibular advancement device, which just means that it pushes your lower jaw forward. The device looks very similar to a retainer or sports dental guard, except that the upper and lower jaw are joined together by a hinge. This allows the device to gently slide your lower jaw forward.

By pushing the lower jaw forward, your uvula is moved too. Even when your muscles relax, your uvula is less likely to block your airway.

What To Expect

Having a mandibular advancement device made is a relatively easy process. Your dentist will take a mold of your teeth and an x-ray of your jaw. This will allow them to determine how far forward your lower jaw can move. They'll send the information to a manufacturer, which will custom-make your mandibular advancement device. You can expect it to fit seamlessly over your teeth and to only move your lower jaw forward enough to be beneficial, but not uncomfortable.

Once your device has arrived, your dentist will have you try it on to make sure it's a good fit. Your dentist may then arrange a night at a sleep lab for you to wear the device and be monitored while you sleep. This way, you can be sure that the device is adequately preventing you from having your airway cut off while you rest.

Sleeping with your airway cut off is dangerous and unhealthy, and mandibular advancement devices offer one potential way of stopping this harmful disorder. If you have sleep apnea and haven't sought treatment, contact a dental office like Jerry C Hu DDS Family Dentistry LLC today for help.