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Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea Treatment in Los Gatos

Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep.  The term sleep apnea is derived from the Greek etymology meaning “without breath”.  Breathing pauses can last anywhere from several seconds to minutes, and happen as often as 30 times or more per hour.  Ongoing disrupted breathing causes an imbalance between the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the bloodstream, as not enough carbon dioxide is exiting and not enough oxygen is entering the body.

Sensing this imbalance, the brain sends a message to the body, telling it to wake up to restart the breathing process.  People with sleep apnea will partially awake as they struggle to breathe, and this is often accompanied by loud snoring or choking sensations.  Because people with sleep apnea don’t always completely awake during the episodes, they are often unaware they have a sleeping disorder and it can remain undiagnosed.

There are two main types of this disorder; central sleep apnea which occurs when the brain fails to send important signals to the breathing muscles, and obstructive sleep apnea which occurs when air cannot flow through the nose or mouth even though the body is still trying to breathe.  Obstructive sleep apnea is far more prevalent and easily treatable by the dentist.

Common signs of obstructive sleep apnea can include severe early morning headaches, sleepiness in the daytime, and insomnia. Fortunately, the dentist is equipped with the necessary technology and expertise to treat sleep apnea in several different ways.

Reason for treating sleep apnea

It is very important to seek medical attention if sleep apnea is suspected. A sufferer can completely stop breathing numerous times per hour, and this can quickly turn into a deadly situation. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissue lying at the back of the patient’s throat collapses into the airway. The tongue then falls towards the back of the throat which tightens the blockage and prevents oxygen from entering the lungs.

The problem worsens when the chest region, diaphragm, and abdomen fight for air. The efforts they make to obtain vital oxygen only cause a further tightening of the blockage. The patient must arouse from deep sleep to tense the tongue and remove the soft tissue from the airway.

Because sleep apnea causes carbon dioxide levels to skyrocket in the blood and oxygen levels to decrease, the heart has to pump harder and faster to compensate for the lack of oxygen. Sleep apnea patients can technically “die” many times each night. Sleep apnea has been linked to a series of serious heart-related conditions and should be investigated by the dentist at the earliest opportunity.

What does sleep apnea treatment involve?

Initially, the dentist will want to conduct tests in order to investigate, diagnose, and pinpoint a suitable treatment. The dentist can offer many different treatment options which depend largely on the exact diagnosis and the health of the patient. The dentist may advise the patient to halt some habits that aggravate sleep apnea such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and tranquilizer use.

Sleeping masks were traditionally used to keep the patient’s airways open while they slept, but nowadays there are some less intrusive options. Dental devices that gently tease the lower jaw forward are very effective in preventing the tongue from blocking the main air passage. These dental devices are gentle, easy to wear, and often help patients avoid unwanted surgeries.

A more permanent solution is to have surgery that sections the lower jaw and helps pull the bone holding the tongue forward slightly. This surgery has an impressive success rate and is simple for the dentist or oral surgeon to perform. The dentist needs to formally make a diagnosis of each individual case before recommending the best course of action.

If you feel you may benefit from sleep apnea treatment, contact our Los Gatos dental practice today.

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Testimonials

Dr. Herrera and her staff are the best. Appointments are always on time. She is thorough, professional and just a neat person. I visit her office about 4 times a year for cleanings and checkups. The reason I mention this is that she has had the same great hygenist, Terri, for the entire time I have been a patient. My prior dentist had different hygenist every time I visited. Good example of how well this office is run. Don't have any fears seeing this dentist. Gentle, understanding and never rushed!

Jim S.

Dr. Herrera has been my dentist since mine retired many years ago. Dr. Herrera and her staff are highly skilled, and professional. Their equipment is top notch and the environment is relaxing. The hygienist (Teri) is very thorough and is simply excellent. Awhile back, I came in with a broken tooth, I expected a 2 or 3 visit repair over a course of at least a week. Dr. Herrera figured out the best repair, took the measurements, matched the tooth color, milled a porcelain crown, fitted and bonded it perfectly. I had a porcelain crown in one visit! The crown has been trouble free for years, and it still looks perfect. I have a fantastic dentist and hygienist. It does not get any better.

Kevin M.

Love Dr Herrera and all of the staff! Always courteous, friendly and fun when I visit. They are all very gentle when working on your teeth, so if you have a phobia of the dentist, fear no more! Not only are they easy on your mouth, but they have television screens you can watch while receiving treatment and even massaging chairs! I will continue to refer friends, family and clients to them for great dental care.

Lauren H.

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