Sleep apnea is the complete stoppage of breathing that occurs several times every night. It causes a significant reduction in your blood oxygen levels that can lead to major health problems.
Learning about the symptoms of sleep apnea will help you determine if it’s time to see Dr. Sheehan, an experienced sleep dentist. If you snore loudly and you notice additional symptoms of sleep apnea such as feeling tired and listless during the day, Dr. Sheehan will get you the help you need.
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Identifying Your Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Heavy snoring that’s often punctuated by loud gasping noises is a common indicator of sleep apnea. Daytime symptoms of sleep apnea include morning headaches or dry mouth, mood swings, irritability, impaired memory, and a lack of motivation.
Dentists have advanced knowledge of the airway, the part of the body where sleep apnea occurs. As an experienced sleep dentist, Dr. Sheehan will often discover signs of sleep apnea in our patients during regular dental checkups.
Common oral symptoms of sleep apnea that Dr. Sheehan notices in our patients include:
- Worn down teeth
- Scalloped tongue (wavy patterns on the side of the tongue)
- Grinding or clenching of teeth
- Tongue thrusting (tongue presses against incisors, causing misalignment)
- Enlarged tonsils or an elongated uvula
- Mandibular Tori (bony outgrowths on your teeth)
- TMD (pain or discomfort in temporomandibular joints located beneath your ears)
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
There are three types of sleep apnea — central sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea. Of the three, the most common form we treat is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax while you’re sleeping, causing tissue to fall back and block the airway. When airflow is interrupted, the oxygen level in your blood decreases dramatically. As soon as your brain notices the reduction in oxygen, it will jolt you awake so you can start breathing again.
Even though a sleep apnea patient can stop breathing up to 30 times or more throughout the night, most patients don’t recall being awakened by their sleep apnea. This nightly pattern prevents you from experiencing a healthy sleep cycle, and it can rob you of your energy during the day.
Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can affect anyone at nearly any age. However, men are two to three more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than women and older adults are at a higher risk than younger adults and children.
Other risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Smoking tobacco
- Drinking alcohol, especially before sleep
- Family history
- Nasal congestion
- Large neck circumference
Untreated Sleep Apnea Can Damage Your Health
If you notice sleep apnea symptoms in yourself or a loved one, it’s time to seek professional care. The sooner you get treatment for your sleep apnea, the healthier you’ll be.
Sleep apnea is a dangerous sleep disorder that can be life-threatening. Additional health risks that have been scientifically linked to OSA include:
- Cardiovascular complications
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease
- Erectile dysfunction
- High cholesterol
Protect Your Health Today
OSA will diminish your energy, drive, and happiness, making a huge impact on your quality of life. But it doesn’t have to be this way. To receive effective, personalized care, schedule a consultation with Dr. Sheehan today.