A potentially serious condition that affects millions of Americans, sleep apnea is often misunderstood. Because it can cause discomfort at night or disturb a sleeping partner, it’s essential to treat the condition. Learn more about how your orthodontist can help cure your sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a medical condition marked by intermittent breathing interruptions during sleep. Each interruption can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, making them disruptive to your sleep. The condition comes with several unpleasant side effects, which may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack or failure
  • Strokes
  • Frequent tiredness
  • Depression

For those with pre-existing cardiovascular issues, it’s a wise idea to seek treatment. Even if you don’t already have heart problems, sleep apnea can cause disruptions that affect the quality and quantity of your sleep. To ensure your body receives the rest it needs, consider treatment with an orthodontist or other medical professional. Orthodontic appliances can often reduce or eliminate the need for a CPAP machine while ensuring you get a good night’s sleep.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

There are a few predispositions that may lead a person to develop sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, the condition is caused by issues with the muscles in the back of your throat. This narrows your airways, causing you to breathe through your nose. Central sleep apnea, on the other hand, is a result of an error in transmission signals from the brain to the muscles.

Individuals may suffer from obstructive or central sleep apnea, or they may have complex sleep apnea, a combination of the two. Along with the muscular causes of sleep apnea, there are also orthodontic problems that may restrict airflow. These orthodontic issues include:

  • Jaw misalignment
  • Tooth misalignment
  • Arch problems

How an Orthodontist Can Treat Sleep Apnea

If you have obstructive sleep apnea caused by orthodontic issues, a skilled orthodontist may be able to relieve your symptoms. Some of the most-used solutions for sleep apnea include:

  • Braces/Aligners: Traditional braces and the more modern, clear aligner trays are great options for patients with jaw and tooth misalignment. Both options slowly guide your teeth into a more comfortable position, preventing teeth from obstructing airflow.
  • Mandibular Advancement Splint: If you have a jaw alignment issue, your orthodontist may recommend a mandibular advancement splint. This custom-fit appliance shifts the alignment of your lower jaw as you sleep, widening your airways.
  • Rapid palate expander: For children experiencing sleep apnea, a rapid palate expander may be cemented to the upper molars. This device widens the range of your upper jaw, allowing for increased airflow.

Ultimately, the best solution for your sleep apnea will depend upon the state of your teeth and jaw. A variety of other factors, such as age, also play a role. A professional orthodontist can help by providing you an expert opinion on which treatment option is best for you. By improving your airflow and allowing you to make the most of your night’s rest, orthodontics can successfully cure your sleep apnea.

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