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What is Sleep Apnea? – Wesley Chapel, FL

Sleep Apnea is a Condition Worth Treating

So, exactly what is sleep apnea? The Wesley Chapel, FL sleep apnea dentist at Nelson Dental Sleep Medicine is here to help you make sense of this complex diagnosis and how a dentist can help. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes patients to stop breathing for ten or more seconds at a time during sleep. These apnea incidents may occur hundreds of times throughout the night when the brain fails to signal the body to inhale and exhale. There are two different common types of sleep apnea, including central sleep apnea (CSA), when the brain doesn't let the body know when to inhale & exhale, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is when airways become narrowed or blocked, minimizing oxygen flow to the rest of the body. Some patients may even experience a combination of the two types of sleep apnea. Unfortunately, the warning signs and symptoms of sleep apnea are so varied that the majority of people who suffer from any form of the condition (about 80%) go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years before receiving treatment. 

Why Choose Nelson Dental Sleep Medicine for Sleep Apnea Therapy?

  • Sleep Dentist with 10+ Years of Experience
  • Accepts Health Insurance, Tricare, & Medicare
  • We Offer
    CPAP Alternatives

Signs of Sleep Apnea

Tired man in need of sleep apnea therapy holding head

Some of the common indicators of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Waking up being out of breath or gasping for air
  • Morning headaches, sore throat, or dry mouth
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness, exhaustion, or fatigue
  • Lack of concentration
  • Memory loss
  • Mood swings, change in behavior
  • Sexual Dysfunction

Successful Sleep Apnea Treatment

Man waking feeling rested after successful sleep apnea treatment

The first step in restoring restful sleep for those patients with sleep apnea is determining whether they are suffering from CSA or OSA. At Nelson Dental Sleep Medicine, we offer patients assistance with diagnosing their condition. We start by asking patients to complete the assessment. If this brief yes or no questionnaire indicates that patients are at risk, we will recommend a more advanced sleep study. Once we know the severity and cause of patients’ sleep apnea, treatment planning begins.

Complete Our Assessment 

For those patients with obstructive sleep apnea, we may be able to use comfortable oral appliance therapy to treat their symptoms. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has stated that the first treatment solutions for snoring and mild to moderate OSA can be an oral appliance. For those patients with severe OSA or CSA, CPAP therapy or combined oral appliance and CPAP therapy may be a better first choice.

Facts About Sleep Apnea

Woman considering sleep apnea treatment
  • As long as adults consistently receive 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, they should not feel fatigued during the day.
  • Patients with sleep apnea are more likely to become obese, be unable to lose weight, and struggle to keep weight off once it’s lost.
  • Alcoholism, drug addiction, and Alzheimer’s affect memory in the same way that sleep apnea and sleep deprivation do.
  • Many patients who believe they are suffering from insomnia are actually awakened periodically due to breathing interruptions related to sleep apnea.
  • If you snore regularly but are not diagnosed as suffering from sleep apnea, you are still at a higher risk of developing this sleep disorder. By treating snoring using oral appliance therapy, patients are able to avoid future health risks associated with sleep apnea, including cardiac disease, stroke, acid reflux, and cognitive disorders.
  • Exhaustion and excessive sleepiness caused by lack of regenerative sleep increases the risk for motor vehicle accidents more than 15 times. Tired people tested against inebriated people in a closed course driving test were more likely to have an accident.
  • Recent estimates show that 80% of patients suffering from sleep apnea are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, and an even greater percentage are untreated.
  • When sleep apnea is left untreated, the average life expectancy is significantly reduced. Most untreated sleep apneic patients do not live past 55 years of age.
  • Sleep apnea is one of the most common causes of sexual or erectile dysfunctions.
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom at night may actually be indicative of undiagnosed sleep apnea.
  • Teeth grinding is commonly an indicator of sleep apnea.
  • The size of patients’ necks or tongue may put them at greater risk for developing sleep apnea.

Snoring Isn't Just an Annoyance

Man in need of sleep apnea treatment feeling tired

Snoring is often the first indication that patients may be developing sleep apnea. Snoring and other vocalizations like speech, laughter, and singing all occur due to the vibration of air against the throat, mouth, and tongue. A minor obstruction of the airway may not prevent patients from breathing through the night, but it will lead to increased difficulty inhaling and exhaling during sleep. Over time, the obstruction that leads to snoring may become more severe, causing patients to struggle when inhaling and exhaling, eventually developing into sleep apnea.

For those patients who do not suffer from sleep apnea but who do snore loudly and consistently, oral appliance therapy may still be recommended to prevent sleep apnea and the associated health concerns like elevated blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and negative cognitive and physical effects of sleep deprivation.

Learn About Snoring Treatment

Our Alternative to CPAP

Man placing CPAP alternative oral appliance for sleep apnea

CPAP has long been considered the gold standard of treatment for sleep apnea, and in advanced cases and for those patients with central sleep apnea, CPAP therapy or surgical correction may be the ideal treatment. Unfortunately, many patients are diagnosed as being CPAP intolerant. The CPAP system uses a face mask covering the nose that forces air into the throat and lungs. These systems can be loud, and many people are unable to get used to the noises and sensations associated with them. For those patients who suffer from loud snoring, mild sleep apnea, and those who are CPAP intolerant, Dr. Jay A. Nelson and his team offer an alternative – oral appliance therapy. We can custom fit patients for a number of different oral appliances that adjust the position of the jaw during sleep in order to keep patients’ airways open. These appliances are comfortable to wear, easy to remove and clean, compact for easy storage and transportation during travel, and often dramatically increase patients’ treatment compliance.

Is it Covered by Insurance?

Man and woman discussing insurance coverage for sleep apnea treatment

Typically, we are able to use a patient’s medical (not dental!) insurance to cover oral appliance therapy. Our knowledgeable team will work with you and your insurance providers to maximize coverage. We’re happy to process and file claims for most major insurance providers and Medicare.