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women disturbed by snoring

If you suspect you could have sleep apnea but haven’t yet looked into sleep apnea treatment, you really should now that summer is here. Daytime sleepiness, a common symptom, can be downright dangerous if your family vacation will include lengthy stretches on the road. In fact, some studies of long-distance truck drivers have linked untreated sleep apnea to a higher percentage of traffic accidents.

At 1st in Smiles, we work closely with a sleep specialist to arrange a sleep apnea test. If you have apnea, we can fit you for a custom oral appliance in our Plano, TX dentist office. The simplest and least invasive type of sleep apnea treatment, an appliance works well for people with mild or moderate cases of obstructive sleep apnea.

To make an appointment with Dr. Rick Barfield at 1st in Smiles, call 972-380-8105.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Explained

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused when your tongue or other muscles relax and block your airway when you sleep. Because your airway is obscured, your breathing is interrupted – sometimes as many as hundreds of times a night. The oxygen level in your blood drops, and your body reacts by partially or completely awakening. This prevents your body from getting the deep sleep it needs to function properly.

Not surprisingly, forgetfulness and difficulty focusing when awake are among common sleep apnea symptoms. Others include:

  • Chronic loud snoring
  • Regularly waking with a dry or sore throat
  • Frequent instances of insomnia
  • Waking with a headache
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability

Sleep Apnea Risk Factors

Men are more prone than women to suffer from apnea. It’s also more common in those over age 40. Other sleep apnea risk factors are:

  • Obesity
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • A large neck (at least 17 inches for men, more than 16 inches for women)
  • A small upper airway
  • A deviated septum

Sleep Apnea Treatment: Oral Appliance vs. CPAP

Two of the most common sleep apnea treatments are an oral appliance and a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. Unless it’s clear you have severe apnea, we recommend trying an appliance first. It’s less expensive, and most people have far less trouble adjusting to an appliance than to a CPAP.

The oral appliance works by gently moving your jaw into a position that keeps your airway clear as you sleep. A CPAP machine keeps your airway open with a constant flow of pressurized air delivered through a mask you wear over your face.

In addition to typically being less expensive, an appliance is:

  • Less obtrusive. It won’t cover any part of their face, and there’s no plastic tubing to get tangled.
  • More comfortable. Not everyone finds it comfortable to breathe forced air. It can sometimes leave you with a dry throat and/or nose in the morning.
  • More convenient. It’s easier to transport for travel, since it fits into a purse or pocket. There’s no need for an electrical outlet or batteries. An appliance won’t get you pulled aside in an airport security line as a CPAP might.

Untreated Sleep Apnea Puts Your Health at Risk

It’s bad enough that apnea disrupts your rest and can make you sleepy while driving or performing other tasks. But research has also linked sleep apnea to health problems, including irregular heartbeats and high blood pressure.

Other conditions linked to sleep apnea include:

  • Headaches
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Depression

Whether you’re flying or driving on vacation, traveling with untreated sleep apnea is a bad idea. You could put yourself or your family in danger! To schedule a consultation with Dr. Barfield in our Plano, TX dentist office, call 1st in Smiles at 972-380-8105.