Dental Therapies for Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is a serious chronic disorder of the upper airway that causes interruptions of breathing for at least 10 seconds or more during sleep. This can occur five to 20 times per hour. Loss of a continual supply of oxygen to the tissues, especially at night, when the body’s tissues and organs are detoxing and recovering, can have profound effects on overall health. Symptoms include heavy snoring and waking frequently.

This condition is associated with heart problems such as arrhythmia, high blood pressure or stroke and daytime sleepiness (tending to fall asleep at work, on the phone or even driving). Sleep disturbances can also lead to depression, irritability, sexual problems, impaired learning and memory or dry throat or mouth in the morning.

Conventional medicine treats the symptoms of this disorder in different ways, such as the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, surgery to correct anatomical defects or oral devices that open the upper airway. Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical condition that must be diagnosed by a physician. This is usually determined by the results of an overnight sleep study called a polysomnogram, along with an individual history and evaluation. Oral dental devices can only be recommended by a physician or certified therapist after other routes of treatment have been suggested or tried.

The root cause of sleep apnea can be addressed by other alternative providers. Lifestyle changes may be as helpful as other methods. A common risk associated with sleep apnea is being overweight or obese. Even a 10 percent weight loss can reduce nightly breathing interruptions. Other changes include avoidance of alcohol before bed, side effects of any medications, including sleeping pills, developing good sleep habits (dark room, no TV, cell phones or computers in the bedroom, quiet room, firm bedtime and sleep schedule), sleeping on side instead of back, getting blood pressure under control, moderate exercise (during the day, not before bed) and good nutritional habits.

Carol Layton, DMD, MAGD, AIAOMT, NMD, of Hershey Dental Associates, LLC. 273 Hershey Rd, Hummelstown, has recently completed continuing education and can work with the sleep medicine staff on apnea problems. For more information, call 717-220-1792 or visit

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