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Just a Snore? Or Is It More?

Smile, Chemung Family Dental, Elmira NY
I came to Chemung Family Dental to see Dr. Dunn to get treatment for my sleep apnea. I was not able to wear my CPAP machine due to many complications for years so Dr. Dunn made me an oral appliance to treat my sleep apnea. Since then I have been able to sleep throughout the night, I wake up feeling rested, am no longer tired or falling asleep during the day and I don’t wake my wife up with loud snoring like I used to. Dr. Dunn re-tested me with an “ at home sleep study” with my oral appliance in and my sleep apnea has improved drastically! I now feel great.

– Chemung Family Dental Patient

Sleep Apnea Dentist

Located In Elmira, NY. Proudly Serving Corning & Ithaca, NY

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, typically lasts from 10-20 seconds and can occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. As a consequence, you spend more time in light sleep and less time in the deep, restorative sleep you need to be energetic, mentally sharp, and productive the next day.

Effects & Diagnosis

Due to these apnea episodes, the brain and the rest of the body may not get enough oxygen. Sleep apnea is diagnosed with an overnight sleep test called a polysomnogram or “sleep study”. This may be done in a sleep disorder center or even at home. 15% – 20% or more of adults in Western countries are likely to have undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and therefore are candidates for treatment. There are upwards of 90 million people in the United States with undiagnosed sleep disorders. This is a serious situation and threatens overall health. Dr. Dunn works closely with all the Pulmonologists and Sleep Physicians, as well as your primary care physician.

We accommodate CDL drivers with sleep apnea to maintain their licenses!

Dr. Dunn is a Diplomate of the ABDSM and is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) and the American Thoracic Society (ATS).

Are there different types of sleep apnea?

Yes, there are two main types of sleep apnea:

Central Sleep Apnea

In In this type of apnea, unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing due to instability in the respiratory control center.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Is the most common type. It is caused by a blockage of the airway which is caused when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. This restriction of the airway increases the velocity of the airflow through the passages which produces vibration of the soft tissues and uvula or loud snoring.

Who is at risk of developing sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea can affect children as well as adults. Here are risk factors for sleep apnea:

  • Being over age 40
  • Being overweight
  • Being male
  • Having a large neck size (17 inches or greater in men, 16 inches or greater in women).
  • Having a large tongue, tonsils or a small jaw
  • Having a family history of sleep apnea
  • Nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum or sinus and allergy problems
  • Gastroesophageal reflux or GERD

What health problems can sleep apnea lead to?

If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to an increased risk of serious health problems including:

  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Dementia
  • Heart failure, heart attacks and irregular heartbeat
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Worsening of ACHD

What area side effects of sleep apnea?

Side effects of untreated sleep apnea may be poor performance in everyday activities such as school and work as well as motor vehicle accidents. This is largely due to the inability of the body to have deep restful sleep that is required for normal function as well as deprivation of oxygen to the brain and the body.

How do you treat sleep apnea?

In mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea there are a number of behavioral and lifestyle changes that can be made to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea.

They include:

Lose Weight – this helps to open up the throat and the breathing airways

Quit Smoking – smoking contributes to sleep apnea by increasing inflammation and fluid retention in the throat and upper airway.

Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills and sedatives – these all act to relax the muscles in the throat and interfere with breathing. It is especially important to avoid these things before bedtime.
Avoid caffeine and heavy meals within two hours of going to sleep.

Avoid sleeping on your back. Instead sleep on your side or stomach. Sleeping on your back, due to the effects of gravity, allows your tongue and soft tissues to drop or move back obstructing the airway. Open your nasal passages at night by using nasal dilators, breathing strips or saline spray.

If the above methods do not work, or your apnea is more advanced, it may be necessary to seek further medical care.

What are treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

Unless you have a Central Sleep Apnea that would be treated with specific medication, treatment for OSA falls into two main categories:

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

This is the most common treatment modality for moderate to severe sleep apnea. With this treatment a mask is worn over the nose and or mouth while sleeping. The mask is hooked up to a machine, the size of a kleenex box, that delivers a continuous flow of air into the nose that keeps the breathing passages open and allows for regular breathing without apnea.

There is a newer device called Provent that instead of using a mask has a device that fits over or into the nostrils. This is smaller and less intrusive and many people find this easier to wear.

Although CPAP is very effective for treating sleep apnea, many people have difficulty wearing CPAP devices which can restrict the positions they can sleep in, dry out the nasal and breathing passages or can make them feel claustrophobic. It is estimated that greater than 25% of people using CPAP have difficulty or will not wear them. Therefore another treatment method has become quite popular.

Dental Devices for Sleep Apnea

These devices are specifically designed by dentists with special expertise and training in treating sleep apnea as Dr. Dunn has been. There are many different types and designs of dental devices. They are made of acrylic and most are made to fit inside the mouth, very similar to an athletic guard.

What types of oral devices are there?

The two most common oral devices are the mandibular repositioning appliance and the tongue retaining device. These oral devices open your airway by moving your lower jaw and tongue forward during sleep thereby improving sleep. These devices are most effective for those with mild to moderate sleep apnea.

Are there side effects?

They do have some minor side effects such as soreness and saliva build-up however we have found that the majority of our patients adapt well to them and are an excellent alternative for those that cannot or will not wear CPAP devices.

They are also effective at reducing the harmful effects of sleep apnea as has been demonstrated by studies with patients wearing these appliances for sleep studies. These devices do need to be periodically checked and adjusted by the dentist. Often the fees for this service will be covered by medical insurance.

Ask yourself:

Do you snore so loud that you keep your family up at night?
Do you have problems concentrating and staying focused at work or school or are you tired no matter how long you sleep for?
If you sit down during the day do you doze off right away?

If so, you may be showing the signs of sleep apnea. Do not wait. Consult with your physician or dentist . Treatment is easy, effective and can be life-saving!

Should you have any questions or require additional information, please feel free to call us at 607-734-2045 or click to contact us directly.

Chemung Family Dental
1007 Broadway St.
Elmira, NY 14904

Monday 7:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Tuesday 7:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Wednesday 7:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Thursday 7:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Friday Closed
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed