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If you’re an American adult aged between 30 and 70, there is a greater than 1 in 4 chance you have obstructive sleep apnea.

The majority of sufferers go undiagnosed. Yet it affects people’s daily lives, making it hard to concentrate and even increasing their risk of car accidents. Without treatment, it increases our risk of developing heart failure, diabetes, and even obesity.

The good news is that effective obstructive sleep apnea treatment is available. Some of it comes from a place you’d least expect it – your orthodontist! Orthodontic solutions are offering relief from the symptoms of sleep apnea to many people and you could benefit too.

Let’s take a closer look at obstructive sleep apnea, what causes it, and how orthodontics can help.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

There are three main types of sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. 

People with obstructive sleep apnea constantly stop and start breathing while they are asleep. From time to time, the muscles at the back of the throat relax and cause the airway to narrow or become completely blocked. The respiratory system is working normally, but the body cannot take a breath.

To force them to take a breath, the brain wakes them up. If you suffer from this condition, you may not realize that you’re going through this process night after night. You cannot get good quality sleep and this can start to impact other areas of your life.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Daytime fatigue and sleepiness
  • Waking abruptly in the night, struggling to breathe
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loud snoring
  • Hypertension
  • Changes in mood

If you or your partner notice these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor. They can order a sleep study. You’ll be monitored all night to confirm the diagnosis. 

Although it is more common in adults, children can also develop obstructive sleep apnea. Parents may notice that their children sleep in unusual positions. They may be lethargic and tired during the day or hyperactive. 

Causes of Sleep Apnea

It’s possible for anyone to develop obstructive sleep apnea. However, certain people are at great risk. Some risk factors include:

  • Age – our risk increases as we get older
  • Fat deposits around the neck
  • Naturally narrowed airways
  • Chronic congestion
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes

Additionally, orthodontic issues can cause sleep apnea. Your doctor may examine you and recommend that adjusting the position of your teeth and jaw may reduce your symptoms. They may refer you to an orthodontist for treatment

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment

The gold standard treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. You wear a mask that connects to a CPAP machine. The machine delivers constant, steady air pressure through your nose to help you breathe while you sleep.

However, many patients find CPAP machines uncomfortable or difficult to use. Some find that they can’t get used to wearing it and struggle to sleep while wearing it. Others find it hard to tolerate the continuous air. 

While CPAP is considered the most effective treatment, it only works when used correctly and consistently. If you or your loved one is struggling to get on board with CPAP therapy, orthodontic treatments may be more effective.

Orthodontic Treatments for Sleep Apnea

The right orthodontic treatments for sleep apnea depend on what’s causing your symptoms.

In some people, misaligned teeth may be the culprit. Braces and aligners can help to move teeth into better positions, allowing you to breathe more easily. They can also adjust the position of the jaw to improve airflow while sleeping. 

Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD)

This small device is only worn at night. It works by moving your lower jaw and tongue into a slightly forward position. This helps to keep your airways open throughout the night. 

It’s possible to pick these up online, but over-the-counter options are not designed specifically for you. Your orthodontist will take impressions of your mouth and make a custom device that’s tailored to your needs.

The MAD is highly portable, so it’s easy to take with you if you are traveling. Some sleep apnea sufferers find it much more comfortable to use than CPAP, leading to higher rates of compliance and benefit. 

Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA)

This is a type of surgery that repositions your upper and lower jaw. It enlarges your airways and can lead to significant improvement in the symptoms of sleep apnea.

This treatment can be very effective even for cases of severe sleep apnea. In some cases, it can even eliminate it. 

Rapid Palatal Expander 

A rapid palatal expander is an orthodontic device used in children to increase the size of the upper jaw. It usually takes about three months to complete the treatment which uses gradual pressure to expand the palate. This can lead to increased airflow and a reduction in symptoms.

When to See Your Orthodontist About Sleep Apnea

Your orthodontist may be the first person to spot the signs of sleep apnea. They may note orthodontic issues that are affecting your breathing and ask you about the symptoms you’re experiencing. However, an orthodontist cannot diagnose sleep apnea.

If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor. He or she will be able to arrange for appropriate testing. They may refer you to orthodontic services for further investigation and treatment.

How Rangewood Orthodontics Can Help Sleep Apnea

Feeling tired all the time and struggling to concentrate can make life a drag. The first form of obstructive sleep apnea treatment you’ll try is generally CPAP. But it’s good to check whether your sleep apnea could be caused by an orthodontic issue.

Rangewood Orthodontics has been named the top orthodontist in Colorado Springs. Our experienced orthodontists can recommend treatments that could help you to get a restful night’s sleep.

Call us at (719) 596-3113 or request an appointment online today!